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Fantastic achievement - congratulations to all involved!
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 207 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 7:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
So – a bit of a weird one, as the players got handed a bunch of plot exposition wrapped up in a history lesson. This bit of mission coming up is one of the drivers for the date restriction on the previous job – to get round the ring of fire in <1 lunar month, which made sure I’d have time to get them refuelled and plot dropped to hop onto the next bit of the plot train.

All aboard mother-frackers. Choo-fraking choo.

Leaving it last week at the arrival in Ice Maidens location let me start with my guest NPC, who teased out of them where they were going, so she could have a moment to ponder the date and then start her sermon. Sarah (Ice Maiden) plays a librarian in our LARP system, and does history lessons there, so I had no doubt at all she could deliver the info as needed – so what I’d done was do some research on the 7th Cav from Wikipedia and some other sites, then gently twist and add to it to suit the narrative (though being fair – there really wasn’t anything I needed to twist, as there’s a surprising amount of dodgy stuff already, that just needs presenting in a supportive light!) Of course, once we’re past the “cleft point” where SR history deviates from the real world, then all bets are off – though again by this point the message was clear. So, the players listened fairly quietly as Ice Maiden told them how the Sioux had cursed the 7th Cav, and that blood curse had followed them for 170 years, worked out that this happened WAY before the awakening and magic returned to the world and quite rightly drew the conclusion that you shouldn’t mess with native shaman, as they will mess with your karma.

Still, with the essential info relayed, Ice Maiden then generously gifted the players with 2 scales – which is a pretty massive sign of trust and favour. Partly this is in genuine payment for getting her the deckers who are being useful to her in extending her power base and information gathering facilities across north America, partly it’s so she has an option to track them down (as she’s not too worried about the reverse really), and partly to see what they’ll do with them – and to let them know that she’s done them a massive favour and they owe her and they’re on the hook now. Marius is not keen on this bit… 😊

Back to Seattle, they discussed what they knew, and then descended into a full on skull session on how to mess up the horror, and determined that they needed some much bigger boom than they currently had. So, out came the thinking caps and a shopping list grew. To try and speed things along, I’ve worked out the costs for the gear that they can get hold of in time, and have emailed it out to the players with this weeks writeup, so they can just choose from the menu and whatever they wanted to get will chew up most of the 5 days of slack time they had before they need to head off to Sioux – so hopefully we can run the border and do the arrival meetup with their contact at the start of next week.
The notes for this week include a fair bit of potted history that gave Sarah the information she needed to riff of, with the player action starting again at #25.
The list of goodies they have / can get are as follows:
Firearms available within 5 days:
• Ranger Arms SM-3 sniper rifle with SL2, 14S damage, 6 round magazine, 35K
• Laser rifle / pistol - not available
• Dart Rifle, 10 shot, 8k
• Dart pistol, 5 shot, 1.5k
• Splat gun, 200 Nuyen
• Supersquirt 2, 20 shot, 2k
• Backpack flamethrower, 10 sprays, 6k
• Large netgun, 4 shot, 3.5k
• Pack of 4 large nets, taser chargers (taken from Defiance super-shock), 20k
• Pack of 4 large nets, standard, 10k
• Panther cannon, 20 round clip, 18D damage, 30k
• Canon rounds 1k per 10
• Ares Antioch Grenade Launcher, 6 round magazine, 7.5k
Explosives / blast weapons
• IPE Offensive mini grenade for GL, 15S, 500 per grenade, up to 30 available.
• White phosphorous, standard aero grenade, 14M/10L, 400 per grenade, up to 10 available
• Splash grenades, 150 per grenade, up to 10 available
• Superflash grenades, standard aero, 500 per grenade, up to 20 available
• Great Dragon ATGM, 20D AV missile, 3K each, up to 5 available, launcher = 5k
• Nadia has arranged paperwork for, and delivery of suits of light security armour (6/4) and helmets (1/2), each with optical zoom 3, helmet transceiver, tracking signal R5, HUD with 100Mp of memory, Chem seals and respirators - these were due to be delivered to the ranch, but can be re-routed to Seattle. Cost per suit is 31,175 including delivery, and there is one for each team member, sized to fit.
Magical bombs
• FAB I 50 cubic metre pressurised container, 10k
• Poweball F8 bomb, 3 second activation time from code phrase, 150k

Maps of area from Julius
I threw together some maps of the area from an Ares perspective, with some ‘guesses’ from Julius as to where they were going, to provide some reasonable maps to the players for planning and to confirm what they heard from Ice Maiden. PDF download is available at:

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 9/10/2060, Location:51.50211, -126.14977, Time 19:54
2. Team walking towards Ice Maiden - Aswon, Tads, Kai, Shimazu... staying in tilt-wing=Hunter,Marius, Maisie
3. Kai "What's up doc?" under his breath. "Greetings, we're back!" louder. Yes, you are. How did it go with getting ready to take on the horror. "Ahh, going to have to do it, soon, it escaped, going there next. Think that's our plan." You need a new plan, a better plan. "Oh, by the way we got your deckers" Yeah, they've been in touch. So - where are you going. "Sioux? Yeah, Sioux" Explain a bit about maisie as a guide. ASk for details on where, provide co-ordinates, IM looks uneasy.
4. Aswon - can get the guide to come out, not sure how she would react to you.. IM - no, that's fine. What do you know about the history? Kai - we've done a bit of training, but history/knowledge is good."
5. Start history lesson:
6. Bad news - timing is bad. Seems very close to the location of the Massacre of Wounded Knee - approaching the 170th Anniversary. Potted history:
7. The Indians were performing the Ghost Dance - the FIRST Ghost Dance, with the Lakota Tribe being on the front lines of the negotiations with the encroaching US forces. The U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside approached Spotted Elk's band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them 8.0 km westward to Wounded Knee Creek, where they made camp. The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, led by Colonel James W. Forsyth, arrived and surrounded the encampment. The regiment was supported by a battery of four Hotchkiss mountain guns
8. According to 'official' records - by the time the massacre was over, more than 250 men, women and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead as high as 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died and thirty-nine were wounded (six of the wounded later died). Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. According to 'official' records as well, the massace took place on December 29th.
9. It actually happened on the 17th October, when the 7th Cavalry arrived to disrupt something they knew only as a "Ghost Dance". Army intelligence reported that spirit talkers, wisemen and elders had travelled from all over the lands of the Sioux, representing more than a dozen tribes to engage in some ritual to fortify their position and protect their lands from the white man. That was the reason the 7th Cav was sent in - and spent more than two months combing the countryside executing every man, woman and child they could find without mercy or quarter.
10. The 7th already had a reputation, after the fighting and obliteration of Custer and his men, when Custer was sent without support to a fight where he was grossly outnumbered and refused to back down, his reinforcements being distracted by events at Reno. With their 'history' they attacked with zeal, never questioning the rightness of slaughtering babies and young children, women with child or old men. That was when they were cursed, with every drop of blood they spilt, the stain on their souls becoming darker and darker.
11. The 7th became a cursed affair, their service marred with tales of evil. During the Philippine war 1899-1902, reports were received from soldiers returning from the Philippines that, upon entering a village, American soldiers would ransack every house and church and rob the inhabitants of everything of value, while those who approached the battle line waving a flag of truce were fired upon.
12. "The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed."
13. In the 1916-1917 Mexican Punitive Expedition, the 7th Cavalry were used to range far and wide across Mexico, hunting down troops to slaughter and torture for information on the location of Pancho Villa
14. "Mexico? Is that axtlan" asks Aswon, confirmed.
15. During WWII, they were one of the few units to advance ahead of the ops schedule - capturing their objectives in Leyte Island before they were expected to due to "the vigor of the 7th Cavalry's advance" and the absence of any captured enemies or remaining non-combatants in the area.
16. The battle for Antipolo was marked by bitter struggle in unforgiving terrain, and the 1st Cavalry Division was relieved by the 43rd Infantry Division on 12 March after finally capturing the ruined village. Out of the 92 Silver Stars awarded to men of the 1st Cavalry Division in their drive to Antipolo, the largest share went to men of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, with 41 being awarded.
17. Aswon "for headcount" - yeah.
18. During the Korean War, the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Cecil W. Nist, was the 8th Army reserve at Pohang, but when the 5th Cavalry to the north was attacked in great force, the 7th moved up to reinforce them on 25 July. Between 26 and 29 July, 7th Cavalry troopers were dug in astride the main highway 100 miles southeast of Seoul, but were unprepared for the waves of refugees fleeing south. Commanders feared the refugee columns might harbor North Korean infiltrators, and orders came down to stop refugee movements, with gunfire if necessary. The troopers and officers of 2-7 Cavalry opened fire on innocent civilians, mostly women and children, in the No Gun Ri massacre.
19. This all bought about by the curse of the sioux
20. "So the lesson is, don't cross the sioux!"
21. Yes, indeed. They were cursed
22. "By the people or the place?"
23. Maybe you should find out!
24. "Not sure we have time..."
25. Tads thinks on the way back - no way to do enchanting in a week, but definitely counts as a unique material.
26. Hunter wonders about finding some of the creature - remembers taking some out of the digger team.
27. Tads - no, we dissolved it in acid.
28. Aswon - but at least we know it existed away from the body.

29. The pattern continued - Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq - numerous encounters with civilians or non-combatants, mistakes made, death and destruction. All bought about by a curse over a hundred years old. Though the mana cycle was too low to carry out the Ghost Dance at that point, the tribes still had power, still remembered the old ways. Take heed, and fair caution.
30. Going to offer you something, act of trust, aware of the significance. Don't cross a dragon, just my advice. Going to give you some of my scales...
31. "Isn't that going to hurt you" asks Kai. Well yes, but this is important, make a weapon or defence maybe. But understand - I am serious - don't sell/profit, ritual link to me, but also a link to you.
32. Aswon - what can we do in a week? How can we defeat it.
33. Try to disrupt its physical form, send it away for a while, give you time to prepare
34. Aswon - do you have contacts in the sioux? Great evil waking. They might help
35. IM - no, but I'll work on it.
36. Pulls out some scales, Tads offers to heal. Works, scar remains,
37. Kai - thanks for the gift. If you want a good deal on whoever did that to you, just let us know.
38. IM - might take you up on that. More facepalms from team.
39. Aswon - do they have true names - the horrors?
40. IM - but probably not pronounceable without madness
41. Tads - sincere thanks, for the aid and the supplies. Hopes the deckers will work out for you.
42. Kai - top tip - don't ask the deckers what their favourite things are.
43. CAKE! Happy players. This was 20:00, and everyone got birthday cake. Cakey nom noms.
44. Aswon - we shouldn't let it have access to a power site, regardless of what was going on.
45. 1 hour flight back to seattle, stealth across the border, fine, refuel at the church.
46. Talk to Maisie, ask about site - memorial, part of culture, every sioux knows about. ASk Maisie if the shamen will care - she says they will be open to listening, but may not believe.
47. About 10pm back in seattle
48. Marius - asking about normal weapons - get WP grenades, elemental effects, affecting spirits. Aswon thinks about it - maybe it will work, but dropping WP on ancient burial grounds might be just as bad.
49. Kai - did it cast spells at us? Tads - yes, at least fling, + fear effect. Talk about tads shielding / resistance. Aswon thinks the powers are the most dangerous, not the spells. Kai - but it also had acid blood as well didn't it? Tads - I tried to levitate it, tied up some of the tentacles, so nets might work as well. Aswon - troll sized taser nets. Hunter suggests crash foam.
50. Some planning about types of spirits, who has what gun, discussions about net guns, do they risk FAB. Look at riot foam for an option
51. it regened in the pool, can they isolate it from the pool, fill the pool with riot foam, was the temple a personal domain. Lots of unknowns.
52. Hunter calls Julius (ares,stockholm), asks for maps, sioux lands, sends co-ordinates. surprised, should be able to get some maps over in the next few hours.
53. Hunter suggests calling Rocket, asking if they want to get in touch and join in for round 2.
54. Aswon suggest getting in touch with Trophy for hardware, unlikely to ask questions on what they want.
55. Panther cannon, laser rifle, WP, incendiary, blazers, splat guns, riot foam, large net guns, taser nets, mgl12, superflash, flare comp goggles, talk to nadia about acid proof armour, ipe concussion, combat shotguns, willing to pay double normal . Also looking for any kind of anchored magical bomb/blast/trap
56. Tads magical scouting, mana ebb - Aswon, maybe local rituals to keep the ghosts asleep / appeased.
57. Kai calls Anahita, looking for sioux artifacts - thinking about returning something to get in with the locals.
58. Same with his exotic goods dealer for relevant stuff.
59. Hunter calls Rocket - goes to an answering service, routing through somewhere in Azania.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 208 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 7:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Having given the team the gear list via discord during the week, we could at least get through the shopping reasonably quickly and move on to more interesting stuff – then unfortunately we hit a brief snag. Or rather Kai did, when he had to bail on the session due to a tooth abscess that was driving him up the wall. For the travel over there we could continue without him, so that’s what we did – and then of course the team decided to detour slightly to Daniel’s, the smuggler stop in Sioux lands. So a quick bit of detour and emergency planning, and they landed at the airbase, get refuelled and run into a Wildcat strike team, and spot them chatting using Sioux Sign Language. As Kai wasn’t there, I at least got to have Kai be slightly spooked by the official awareness of the place (echoing two of the other players OOC comments though) and move the team along nicely.
Once they’d left the smuggler stop though, there was a quick overnight out in the wilderness, and then their meeting at the t-junction – which was where we stopped for the night, as that’s something I really want the whole team to be there for, *especially* the face, given who they’re meeting.
I was pleasantly surprised when none of the team had foreseen meeting Ehran at all, with various bets on other “moves and shakers” – and I had to put my best poker face on when I heard various comments like “well, it could have been a lot worse thinking about it – it could have been Harlequin!”.
Oh you sweet summer children – it’s like music to my ears…
I got a couple of DMs after the session, which I found interesting – posted below for anyone that knows anything about the Shadowrun Lore (or wants to find out)
1. dunklezhan:
To be clear: I have no idea what he's going to say about this horror, why its here, what we have to do exactly. I am expecting some sort of explanation of mana spikes caused by ghost dances bringing dimensions together, and it wanting to use that spike to finish a bridge of some kind. And that we must do X, otherwise cats and dogs, living together, real wrath of god type stuff, and also at least a tacit implication that he can make sure we never leave Sioux alive if we back out now. If we're very lucky, he'll have advice, things to help directly, or know something about this horror to help clue us in to what might work or what traps it might set for us (minions or otherwise). So I don't know how close that lot is, but broadly speaking, that's what I expected at this stage. In terms of who I was expecting, it was a toss up between a a Tir rep (of some kind connected to a Prince), a local tribal leader, or just some agent of Aden, DIMR, Atlantean Foundation or someone of that nature. Someone... significant, anyway, but not necessarily a "name". I hadn't figured on Ehran or Harlequin making an appearance but I did think possibly at the outside one of the others, blood queen, or one of the Oakleafs, someone like that maybe. mostly I was thinking a fairly faceless agent of Aden or a representative of an organisation, so yes a Name showing up was a surprise! However, thinking about the Harlequin & HB fiction sections from memory, Ehran does make perfect sense and unlike harlequin was paying attention during the downtime rather than just getting drunk in taverns all over the Old and New worlds... (edited)
2. [9:06 PM] dunklezhan:
When I saw the picture I didn't recognise it - I actually thought it was Surehand so I was holding my breath a bit: I couldn't imagine you have the high prince show up randomly in the middle of nowhere, he's not that 'free'
3. [9:06 PM] dunklezhan:
was kinda releived when you said it was Ehran, had an 'ah right, of course. Ghost Dances. Mana spikes. Horrors. ' and my second thoughts were much as Lee said: well that could have been a lot worse
4. [9:07 PM] dunklezhan:
I mean god can you imagine harlequin and kai? Thank you for sending Ehran lol
5. [9:11 PM] dunklezhan:
In any case: Aswon knows nothing about mana spikes and metaplanar bridges, I'm absolutely sure of that. "Big emotion cause weirdness on astral" and "This guy wrote about mana cycles and stuff and was a spike baby. Big noise in the Tir, something something Tir Ghosts and Paladins", sure. But not "ten years ago the world nearly got eaten by horrors from a metaplane beyond the bugs thanks to the great ghost dance and it was only stopped by shadowrunners and a nutty immortal elf"
6. [9:14 PM] dunklezhan:
Much less "it is X named horror and this is what it takes to get rid of it" - Jez doesn't know that, Lee has far better chance of knowing anything like that.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 9/10/2060, Location: 47.96859, -122.19593, Time 23:17
2. Panther cannon, 20 round clip, 18D damage, 30k
3. Canon rounds 1k per 10 - take 100
4. Ares Antioch Grenade Launcher with rangefinder, SL2, 6 round magazine, 7.5k
5. IPE Offensive mini grenade for GL, 15S, 500 per grenade, up to 30 available.
6. White phosphorous, standard aero grenade, 14M/10L, 400 per grenade, up to 10 available
7. spray foam explosive canisters 4.1k
8. Splat gun, 200 Nuyen
9. Large netgun, 4 shot, 3.5k
10. Pack of 4 large nets, taser chargers (taken from Defiance super-shock), 20k
11. Pack of 4 large nets, standard, 10k
12. Nadia has arranged paperwork for, and delivery of suits of light security armour (6/4) and helmets (1/2), each with optical zoom 3, helmet transceiver, tracking signal R5, HUD with 100Mp of memory, Chem seals and respirators - these were due to be delivered to the ranch, but can be re-routed to Seattle. Cost per suit is 31,175 including delivery, and there is one for each team member, sized to fit. Acid resistance 6, flame resistance 4
13. Practice in the barrens, learning improved attribute (str)+ 3 sustaining foci
14. discuss posting Tads new formula on magiknet - hunter ok with that. Some discussion about how to do this, and why, Hunter raises undercutting some other people, Aswon says they'll probably be working on advanced versions.
15. Tilt wing is full, discussion about leaving the vec-thrust drone, not needed on the next mission. Leave the transport drone and one scrambler as well.
16. Slide the dragons scales down the side of the fuel barrels, just for somewhere to store them where they might help.
17. Tads astral check on Tashkent - someone tunneled in.
18. Sleaze out of Seattle ok across the border.
19. Heading for Daniels on the Green river - local aerodrome, small landing on the river, decent road access through the mountains to highway 287
20. Avoid airport,
21. Spot sioux wildcats in the bar talking about a mission using sioux sign language - Aswon and Hunter spot. Kai finds this really weird - official presence. Stay away, fuel and go.
22. Clean, mix of tech, some drones tending fields, rolling fields
23. Head for the lake and the mountains to the south, park the bird, camp overnight. Tads does a quick astral scout, mana ebb for 500m just as it was, meet co-ordinates are empty.
24. Sleep overnight, clean guns and stuff, head to meet in the morning.
25. relocate to stand of trees 1km south of meet point. Marius watching through Condor, rest going with Kai.
26. Black jeep arrives, spotted by condor
27. Not going in armed too heavy / massively armoured.
28. Arrive at t-junction, cold wind blowing across open plains, two lane blacktop, side turning, string of power poles retrofitted with fibre.
29. When team comes into close view, figure gets out of the vehicle - Marius spots and recognises Ehran.
30. Gets soup and beckons team over.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 209 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 7:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:
This brings book 7 to a close – 364 pages and 236,725 words – I hope you enjoyed them!

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Well, it took a while to get here, but the big set piece I’ve had in mind for a while came to a peak on Tuesday, and certainly some of the players screamed as the roller-coaster dropped.
Off camera, the Horror had escaped from the temple, being dug out by a bunch of people working for Aztechnology who had caught wind of the dig site and managed to get in there before Ares could get another team in to finish the job. They tunnelled out the temple, and were promptly consumed/possessed by the Horror for their troubles – but provided a source of mojo and knowledge for it. Working from the temple site, it travelled down to the west, through Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and headed to Constantinople, amassing bodies and power along the way, then crossing over into Europe and heading through Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, across the top of Italy, into France and then down into Spain, using the port at Bilbao to commandeer a boat to get across to New York, before working its way with a rag-tag army of flunkies loaded across busses and trucks across the UCAS and into Sioux.

As a follow up, if the players (or rather Hunter) does any kind of matrix search, they’ll come across news reports following this path over the last month or so, with a rash of disappearances, stolen vehicles, missing people, security breaches etc – all of which will tie up with a “type” of civilian they saw in the battle, all people that were influenced/mind controlled or otherwise turned into a puppet, slave to the Horrors will. Hopefully this will explain things a little to them, and let them see what happened, and how they all came to be here… and if they explore the area physically, then they’ll find the mass of trucks and busses and other transports that they used for the last leg.

So – that got the Horror and a bunch of minions to the place – a power site of significance and the place where the first Ghost Dance was attempted and failed, way too early in the mana cycle. But, with Harlequin and some other Shadowrunners having defeated their attempt to bridge over the chasm between realms a few years earlier (and something I know at least half the player group know about as we either played or ran Harlequins Back), this was the next biggest spike point they had access to, and the next best place to try to build a bridge. On the anniversary of the massacre, the Horror was going to pull some major mojo and sacrifice all the minions, trying to open up a conduit to the Horror realm and let some more of his mates through.
And he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky meddling kids.

At the end of the week prior to this, I had to bite my cheek and try to keep a poker face when they saw Ehran and were saying things like “at least it’s not harlequin” and “it could have been worse”, knowing what was to come. After the introduction to Ehran, I had Damian Knight arrive, which raised a few eyebrows, and then of course the personification of chaos himself turned up to show Kai how it was done, along with Frosty. I suspect that at least two of the players knew exactly who she was supposed to be OOC, but nobody figured it out in game, so she’s still a mystery woman (though was genuinely admired for giving Harlequin a dressing down).

I’d pre-written a whole bunch of dialogue to work through, which I generally don’t do. Partly this was to try and get something to show off the various parts of their characters, partly to make sure I covered off the plot points, partly to make it clear to the players that it was up to them to sort this shit out as Harlequin was in a sulk, and partly to make the writeup a lot easier to manage. Ali (Tads) commented that this felt a little “street theatre”, in that clearly the NPCs were going to do their thing, and the players had only a little they could do to affect the outcome. Events *were* responsive to their input, but they were essentially correct – Knight was going to jet off with his requests from Ehran, Harlequin and Frosty were going to refuse to take part and drive off, and Ehran would tell them where they needed to be and head off to round up some Shaman. They could however change how the NPCs reacted to them and formed an opinion of them, which will have repercussions down the line.

One of the other major things to do was to get the business card to the team and sow the knowledge of the “Genesis Vehicle”, which is going to be a big upgrade for Marius if and when they decide to head to Detroit to see Ares. I have planned “special doohickeys” for each of the characters to try and give the campaign a bit of a fantasy twist – Aswon has his Spear, Kai has the magical crystal from Yakut, and this will be his – assuming he follows up on it.
But, with the theatre out of the way, the players got to go and scout the scene, do some last minute practice in the armour, move the tilt-wing closer to the location needed and then get a last sleep before the big showdown. Having Maisie along let me tell them about the different tribal makeup of the Sioux nation, and identify some of the shaman, trying to portray the importance of what they were seeing, and the players correctly surmised that they needed to keep these people safe from harm while they did (as Marius and Hunter are fond of referring to it) ‘mythic shit’

The next trigger was the Horror unleashing his barrage of special effects – when I dropped the *effective* karma pool of the mundane characters to zero, and the magical characters lost access to their good karma. This certainly made them sit up and take notice as they realised that without their re-rolls or being able to buy successes, it was going to radically affect their game plan. I’m not sure if anyone realised directly – it certainly wasn’t mentioned – but the other effect which was the reason I did this action, was that it prevented their access to the “hand of god” rule, as a way of cheating death.

When the fight kicked off, the bad guys were at range, giving the players an advantage of firepower and precision, and rather than rolling dice I went with a purely narrative flow. There’s no way I was going to try and simulate a battle this big using the SR rules mechanics – I think we’d still have been working through the first combat round by now, and it essentially didn’t really matter. It was all set-dressing and background to the main event. So, it was done as purely descriptive reactions – as long as the players kept up their weight of fire, the hordes advance was slowed, but not entirely stopped. When they got distracted by something, the horde advanced faster, closing the distance and becoming more of a threat. When the cavalry arrived, they thought initially it was more “bad guys”, then were very confused when the forces split to go around them and engage the enemy – but they certainly didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth. As the battle ebbed and flowed, with the cursed ghosts of the 7th cav from the original time period up through Vietnam era and through to Iraq wars era got stuck in, that let the players think for a moment, and for Marius to do some scouting, and see that “stuff was going on at the graveyard” – and to head up there.

We were getting late in the session now, and possibly I was hurrying things along a little too much – but I didn’t want to leave this hanging mid battle over Christmas, or stretch things out, or lose the feeling of pressure I’d been trying to craft all session, so some of the horror effects were pulled from the game, and I described how they made it up the slope to the graveyard. Shimazu was out front, which suited me perfectly, and when the Horror swapped from using his powers (requiring Tads to use her resistance meta-magic) to a massive soul-rip spell, it caught her flat footed, and without a chance to swap to shielding.

Excellent… <insert emperor_palpatine.gif>

I had Tom/Shimazu make a bodyguarding roll, which he managed to pass – getting a 12, so he at least had the choice rather than *having* to throw himself in the way (he has a character flaw – ‘Impulsive(Bodyguard)’ which he normally plays well, but was definitely going to be a thing here!) So I asked him – you’ve got a held action, you’re the only one with the reflexes to do it. Do you want to get in the way of the thing heading to Kai?
And he said yes, bless him. Plot train not derailed. Big whew.

So I described him taking the hit on the sword, blocking the energy, being all heroic and saving the boss. And then the power overwhelmed the sword, deactivating it, and the bolt hit him, dropping him like a sack of shit.
The horror gloats for a moment, then takes the stolen soul and exits stage left through an astral gateway, to return bigger and badder at a future point. Lights go up, special effects stop. Players surrounded by a mass of corpses and exhumed bodies, carnage everywhere, and a PC on the ground.

Biotech rolls. Dead. Astral check. Dead. Jez/Aswon queries me – “Dead dead?”. “Yeah, looks that way.” “Well, shit.” Players looking at their character sheets then back up at cameras, wondering what just happened.

And fade to black, end of season cliff-hanger shock twist. That’s a wrap folks. Thanks very much, see you all next year. Tom, please stay online so I can chat for a minute about your new character…

All the other players log off, and Ali leaves the room so I can chat with Tom, make sure he’s ok and talk to him about new character concepts and ideas, and to drop him some information about what’s just happened.

You see – there’s no way I’m just arbitrarily killing a character like that. Especially not after 5 years of play time. That’s just gash… really bad form. No real warning, no build-up of events to really sell the idea. It was heroic and all, but really not my style, and not what I was after.
Balanced against that, I’m very mindful of the cardinal rules of magic in Shadowrun. No resurrection. No time-travel. No teleportation. Three rules that should *never* be broken. You can skirt close – I’m surprised the players didn’t say anything about their journey to the surface near the oil rig back when they were flying around the ring of fire – but I had a method there, the pair of earth elementals had paired astral gateways offering a “shortcut” – it was linked by their force X 100m in range, and there were other limits – but it wasn’t strictly teleportation, it’s a trick / simulation.

So – no resurrection. So Shimazu can’t be bought back to life.

As I was tucking Ali up in bed after the game, she was all sad and mournful. She’s a soppy old thing, and was quite upset that Tom had lost his character, and was wondering if it was her fault, that she hadn’t swapped to the right technique in time. There were tears. In a way that pleased me, as she really was feeling the emotion of the event. On the other hand, my wife is crying, as she has all of the guilt. So I had to spend a while distracting her, talking about other things, about how we’d chatted about new character concepts and he was looking forward to trying something new, until she settled. And then I could stop biting the inside of my cheek again.
I left her and took the dog for a walk as usual, and got a chance to review how things had gone, and what was going to happen next.

No resurrection – that’s a hard rule. Baked into the physics of the game world, and you shouldn’t mess with stuff like that. Definitely.

But what if he wasn’t dead. Just *nearly* dead. His soul ripped out and taken with the Horror, leaving his body to die. Like a mage who’s spent too long out of their body. In the midst of all that battlefield carnage, and the adrenaline of battle, it’d be easy to mistake dead and nearly dead for the same thing.

I know it would, because I made secret perception tests and biotech rolls of the players, and they didn’t get any successes… *grin*

So, Shimazu isn’t quite dead. He’s dying, and he’s got only minutes before his body gives up with no soul. But they have a small amount of time…
If only there was someone versed in exotic magical techniques nearby with a handy ritual group of shaman willing to pull off some crazy-shit blood magic ritual.
Funny that… 😊

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative. Much longer than normal as I’d prepared the NPC chats, and it also includes some of the pictures I used for the various NPCs and their vehicles to try and help the players visualise things.
1. Saturday 16/10/2060, Location: 43.04661, -102.37761, Time 09:00
2. Tads assenses Ehran, trying not to penetrate masking. 8 successes.
3. General introductions.
4. Hope you're comfortable, we can start soon, rather explain this only once. Soup.
5. Tads asks about stuff from tiltwing - no you're fine, on time in fact early. Gets soup for team, not for Marius.Can't get it to him.
6. Hunter chemical analysis on soup - natural
7. Kai - looking east - something. E - just waiting for someone.
8. Marius - detect wall of sensor coming in. Warns team.
9. When the team arrives, he starts to talk to them, to be distracted by an Ares TR55-X coming in to land on the highway, stopping near them. A full team of Ares Firewatch get out and set up a perimeter (2 X LMG on gyromount, 1 X Laser MP, one DMR in .75 cal anti-troll, one with paired F6 weapon foci swords, the G6 mage is in the cockpit with the rigger, with shielding up on DK), then he's joined by Damian Knight and his assistant Oliver Brown. Both are covered with spell defence and an astral haze from some kind of concealment spell (astral static). Marius vehicle check - the X is a stretched fuselage version, armoured with longer range, super-luxury, full EW suite. Vague tickle from overhead fighters loitering up at 30K altitude - flight of 3 Ares Penetrator XV's just tooling along at mach 0.6
10. A - you expecting high tech? E - wouldn't surprise me at all. Marius gets details of top cover, warns team.
11. Get details of jet coming in for a landing. Subtle Ares logos.
12. Firewatch team get out, perimeter, then Knight, spots shielding + astral static,
13. Tads assense - curious, impatient,
14. "It's a three hour flight from Detroit - this had better be important"
15. "It is, but thank you for coming."
16. "I very nearly didn't - I don't like getting involved with this mystic nonsense"
17. "But here you are. And of course, mystic nonsense can be SO enriching sometimes. It was only 60 seconds, old friend, but what a ride..." *sharp look from DK*
18. "So why am I here, and who are these people"
19. *** I am Aswon ***
20. "You're here because we need your help, or will do. And these people? I don't actually know... maybe now is a good time for introductions. But we'll keep it brief, as time is a precious commodity for all of us."
21. Kai - just lists names and "remote operator"
22. Radio chatter - contact, westbound, single vehicle. Old style petrol - a Volkswagon.
23. Ehran "Really? Oh, let it through. This should be...interesting."
24. DK "You heard him Oliver. Let it through. But run the plates."
25. *** Kai moves almost imperceptably towards DK for cover. Perception test. Firewatch team starts to aim at him. Aswon steps away from Kai.
26. F - out, nods, "coming?"
27. Harlequin (average height for an elf, being a head shorter in height than Ehran. His usual manner of dress is a long black or brown leather coat, with lots of buttons on the lapel. Underneath the coat, he wears blue jeans, a cotton t-shirt, along with anaconda-skin cowboy boots, His face is usually painted. Sometimes, it is a single diamond over one eye) and Frosty (tall and thin with long, snow-white hair that falls down her back. She is elven, although she is human-looking. She tends to dress for effect and has a weakness for one-of-a-kind items, including a platinum ring in the shape of a coiled dragon) get out of the stretch limo camper. H spots E and stops, planting hands on hips and adopting a defiant stance
28. H "No. No! NO! Absolutely not. I'm not doing it!"
29. F "All you have to do is talk to him. You're not afraid of him are you?"
30. H "Don't try to manipulate me, child. I'm still not doing it."
31. F "Fine - well I'LL go talk to him then and show him that at least one of us is an adult" Approaches. "Hello Ehran. Mr Knight." Gets nods from both of them. "Sorry about him. He's being a bit difficult at the moment."
32. H "I can hear you, you know? And I'm not being difficult. I FIXED that. Can it not just stay FIXED?"
33. E "Apparently not. The enemy moves, for some reason, sooner than we expected."
34. H "Well I'm not fixing it. I'm done. You hear me? Done! They don't understand, they don't care. Feeble little ants, scurrying around, never wondering about the consequences, never seeing the bigger picture. Small minded petty beings full of their own self importance and schemes."
35. F "Maybe because they don't understand the consequences, because some people never give them a straight answer and act all mysterious and holier than thou!"
36. H "Maybe because they're childish and don't understand the magnitude of what they're dealing with."
37. E "I feel you are correct in this."
38. H "And I don't need your support either!"
39. F "Will both of you stop bickering!!!"
40. ***tads mutters "should we have bought chairs and popcorn." Hunter goes for a chocolate bar. Kai asks Aswon "did we break it? No? Good."
41. DK "Indeed. I have no time for this. Or intention to put up with petty insults" Points finger at H "No matter how small minded and petty I am."
42. H "Well, neither do I. And you can't make me!"
43. F "You are SUCH a child sometimes." Proper anger in her voice, slaps H across the face, hard, leaving red marks on his cheek.
44. H "How DARE you!" Noticeable build up of power, feeling of doom. Presence increases, feeling of fell energy. Magic perception checks as his masking slips for just a moment. In astral, he's a weary man wearing blood splattered medieval armour, face covered in gore and mud, exhausted from battle, dragging a sword behind him. Firewatch team get very nervous, fanning out to encircle / pay attention to H. E rubs at his temple.
45. *** Kai to ehran ' you're gonna need more chicken soup ***
46. F "How dare you, stand by and do nothing. How dare you live in a bottle, sitting in your chair staring out of the window, day after day, watching the world go slowly to hell. How. Dare. You. Is this the training you promised me? Is this what I should aspire to? What I am to become?" H goes to speak, but F waves a finger under his nose, quivering with rage. "You disgust me... more than that, you... disappoint me. I'll be in the car." F flounces off, not looking back behind her. H turns to watch her go a little, then swivels round to face the rest. Rubbing at his cheek a little, there's a faint glimmer in the eye, a tiny smile at the corner of his mouth for the first time since they met him. As if someone has just stoked a fireplace, and found a tiny little ember, then blown on it.
47. H "Feisty. I like it. I'm still not helping though. Not this time. It's your turn, chal'han." H turns and strides off after F, returning to the VW and getting in, then turning it around and heading back west.
48. *** Tads - oi, guy with the makeup. Wat? Explains about the horror. Jolly good. Get on with it."
49. DK "What was that about?"
50. E "Old business, that should have been concluded. But apparently not. But now you understand the magnitude of what we're dealing with. So, I need to call in that marker."
51. DK "Marker? I don't have a marker, not with you." E raises an eyebrow, then pulls out an envelope from a pocket, opens it and pulls out a picture of some pyramids on a red background.
52. E "So, the research I have on exactly what these structures are, what they represent and how certain agencies discovered them just before they..."
53. DK "Oh, that marker. Sure. So what do you need?"
54. E "If what is going to happen here is what I expect, then this area is going to see an interesting twenty four hours - but you should not be involved in that, at all. But I believe that one of the people here could benefit greatly from some of your latest work. Particularly the work on the Genesis Vehicle." E points at Marius while DK splutters in shock, Oliver blanches white.
55. DK "How do you know about... never mind." Turns, to Oliver. "We need to evalute our personnel and security arrangements it seems. Give him a contact card though. If he survives whatever is going on here, he can head to Detroit sometime and give us a call."
56. *** oliver swaps buisiness cards with Kai***
57. E "And the other part of this is much more time sensitive. I would like you to call someone, and see if you can - persuade them to carry out something. The details are here." Passes over another sheet of paper. DK scans quickly then snorts.
58. DK "Don't want much do you? Well, that's going to make the news... but I'm sure we can negotiate on something. They're after some new LAVs anyway. I'm not promising, but I'll see what I can do. And the pictures?" Gestures towards E's hand. The pictures spontaneously combust, charring and dropping ash all over the road.
59. E "What pictures?"
60. DK "Ok. I'm on it. But now I have to get back." Gives Marius a hard stare, committing him to memory. "Call me sometime then. Ok, Captain, wheels up in 2. Oliver, get on the phone and call SecDef, tell him I need a few minutes of his time on a matter thats time critical, but that will enhance the security of the UCAS. I can talk on the plane if he can speak in the next two hours." Heading back to the plane, the firewatch team collapse around him and they board,
61. *** Kai shouts to oliver "discrete deliveries, anytime, give us a call" ***
62. engines spool up, then taxi turn and head east, taking off and quickly accelerating, climbing sharply
63. ***Hunter shouts "Detroit is the other way!"***
64. Ehran explains to be there to 10am tomorrow, for Marius to be there. Aswon - we're none the wiser. Well, you aren't. I'll see you tomorrow.
65. Tads gets some spell signature from Ehran - or at least one of his sigs.
66. Tads - who where they?
67. Aswon - explains DK, doesn't know about the others. Kai - H is a nightmare. Shimazu - old tired warrior to me. A girl has him pegged to rights. She seems cool. H - they're his personal bodyguard.
68. Kai - what was the genesis thing? Tads something to do with Marius. A - something for if we're in Detroit? But not relevant today. Tads - Marius probably won't know, from the reaction NOBODOY was supposed to know.
69. A - whoever the painted dude was, I don't know but it seems all scary. S - more powerful than anyone else I've ever seen.
70. Back to the tilt-wing, double and triple checks, try moving in the armour,
71. scout out the area, find spiney to the east to stash the tilt wing
72. Weather report for the next day - clear,dry, cold and windy.
73. Kai to Maisie "do you want to help save the world?" M - you're all getting ready for a war, don't know what is going on. Team discuss, agree to tell her, keep simple story. Aswon tells story - creature, powerful entity, other domain. Threatens everyting. All stuff your people have had enough of. It's had help. Something happening tomorrow, powerful people worried. All sorts of events, weather, etc. You could get out of here to some tribal council, warn people. Taking part might get you killed, but you might be able to help. Don't let it touch you." Kai - "so you're in and might die, or out and hope we don't fail". Tads assenses weapons - you can't hurt it. No - but I can hurt the people trying to stop you hurting it.
74. Welcome aboard.
75. The following morning, team due into area at 10:00. If they go before it's run down, quiet, reverential, making handicrafts from different families, impoverished, shared cred-reader, nothing much moving or happening in the area to see. Deserted compared to yesterday. Ask Maisie - day of the massace, at home making offerings. Tads puts resistance up.
76. Kai asks about spirits - if they answer your call, they are here to help you.
77. Nothing happens until they get within a few hundred metres of the memorial. When they do, 18 shaman appear over the ridge, walking down the road, each accompanied by a young brave. Maisie will identify the tribes if required -
78. 3 X Sioux, 2 X Crow, 2 X Navaho, 2 X Hidatsa, 2 X Arapaho, 1 X Cree, 1 X Plains Chippewa, 1 X Blackfoot, 1 X Apache, 1 X Cheyenne, 1 X Mohawk, 1 X shamen representing the other tribes
79. Aswon "They doing another ghost dance?"
80. Ehran arrives with tribal shaman, go to the monument. ehran is using facial sculpt, now looks like Walther Bright Water. Tads and Aswon recognises, Shimazu a bit.
81. Maisie recognises a number of them:
82. "Wind Biter, Snow Soother, Sun Dancer, Plains Walker" - the others look of a similar age/respect level, indicating they are the elder shaman of their respective tribes.
83. Tads - possibly change of job Maisie - maybe look after your elders.
84. catch Ehran being referred to as "Mountain Thunder". Are they the outsiders? Yes
85. Move down to the memorial, won't engage verbally with the players, sit and start to meditate, smoke and wait. Tads sniff - magical enhancements, but not exactly the same as the wolf tribe.
86. Aswon - ALL of the SUT roll, does exceptionally well. analyses probable battlefield location and flow.
87. Entering the area, sudden darkening of the skies, swirling up creating a malestrom high above them. Occassional flashes of lightning but with no thunder. Sky changes - sickly green vortex in the astral, stretching up to a portal, putrescent green. In real world hurricane swirls, a "maelstrom sky" forming over the graveyard.
88. Magic background starts to build up, rising and falling creating mana ebbs and shallows. Rises up again, then there is a bolt of lightning that hits the burial ground, magic background check on 4s, or wp test on 8s for the mundanes - to feel "different". Mundanes have KP=0, Magical have GK=0
89. Maisie will take weapons and guard the shaman, frightened, doesn't know what's going on.
90. An army of possessed metahumans rise up out of the defiles and lowlands. Wearing uniforms and different clothes, bus tour guides, border officials, guards - whatever got in it's way on the journey over from Turkmenistan. Sends in waves of possessed to target the players. All mostly R3 humans, occasional tougher orcs or trolls, no magic, no tactics - waves of human bodies. Have weak regen (fails on 1-2) 200-300 at least
91. Tads goes for stunball, trying low force, uncertain what the power site will do. F3, cast at S,
- proper shambling army of unstoppable zombies. Horror floating around out of sight at the back, directing, watching through his possessed minions.
92. Team don't want to kill them, but feel they have to - open fire, grenades and AoE, send spirits in to confuse any that get near the shaman. Wind blowing towards the team and left a bit.
93. Horror powers are mostly used in directing his army and the karma effect, at least to start with. Growing sense of palpable dread (rising fear tests on 2s, then 3s, then 4s etc, countered by Tad's resistance (max 6) which should keep them safe.
94. Shielding was up - WP2 Fear test
95. Team open fire, concussion grenades, aimed fire. Ask spirit to take cannister - it refuses.
96. Aswon offers to run in and throw cannister. Check targets - realise they all have some kind of weapon - scratch that.
97. Team spots regen kicking in.
98. Team hears noises behind them, some hearing hoofbeats. Break into a canter, Aswon swops side, hear ghost horn. SUT rolls, spot the split, Aswon patrols the circle. Tads falls back too. Marius keeps firing, Hunter tries to avoid the cav. Fear checks, resistance up, Marius sends condor up. Spots the skellies being exhumed, hurricane winds + the horror. Indirect fire from GLs.
99. Hunter fails WP check - goes to eat a barrel, Kai stops with commanding voice. Tads MB check, resistance is working.
100. Team head up to the graveyard.
101. Head up, laying down heavy fire.
102. As players are being forced back, starting to be surrounded by advancing horde, 10:26 am, 7th cav arrive - sabres and horses first, then M113 APCs from vietnam era
103. The Horror pulls out the stops, starting to use its powers more and putting real effort in - zombies bursting into flames and running forward, exploding as living bombs, the 7th cav M1 Abrams and AH64 Apaches join then, swinging the fighting back to a neutral balance.
104. An 'elite' squad of about 30 aims for the players, launching direct assaults with AK style rifles and shotguns, and with glowing,dripping, green melee weapons, mix of swords, spears and claws.
105. The horror starts to use his "creeping dread" power, Essence check vs 12s (minus any resistance), with the players needing 10 successes to completely counter the effect - otherwise with every "net" hit from the Horror, the players get -1 init and -1 combat pool.
106. As they fight - then go for the horror launching a doom bolt at Kai. Shimazu WP12 test to avoid his bodyguard training taking over, take the bolt on the chest as he pushes Kai away, and fall to the ground, apparently dead. Sight of his soul / astral form being sucked out, into the swirling maelstrom and through the portal. Horror follows and all effects cancel, zombie army drop, life force consumed. Hundreds of corpses, deadly stillness.
107. Get to Shimazu, check for signs of life. Biotech / assense. Both assess as dead.
108. Kai - shouts at Ehran "Help!Now!"
109. Images to share with players for NPCs and vehicles
111. https://images-wixmp-ed30a86b8c4ca887773594...e2Kv6QTqkrccpDw
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 210 is now published, and can be found at the start of a new book:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Hello there! A lot to unpack in this one potentially as we reach the culmination of the first horror arc – loads of background and a bit more street theatre, but also a change of focus and pace as they step back from the timed plot and get a bit more control over their destiny once more.
Starting off with Shimazu, the ritual was performed to get his soul back from the horror, snatching it back from the void/metaplanes and stopping his use as a living bridge, a connection to the plane the horrors come from. This understandably annoyed the horror somewhat, thwarting his plans and counting as “defeating” his goals and costing him a point of potency. It has also satisfied the “deed” declared by Shimazu and Aswon, allowing them to initiate again. It has also of course stopped a major horror incursion that would likely devastate the world, but I mean… it’s not like that was important or anything…

After they had Shimazu tucked away and had moved from the massacre site, there was some *very* intense discussion about what to do next. I was expecting them to head to Seattle, and then decide if they were calling in the Maersk favour to get shipped across the Pacific, or if they were going to fly around the northern rim to get back to Russia and then work their way back towards the Ranch. That’s what I was *expecting*.

What I actually got was Aswon seizing the next bit of plot and shaking it violently going “let’s go to Detroit, we have a meeting, let’s goooooo!” And then of course they looked at the map and realised they’re pretty much evenly split on distance east vs west, and actually it could make a good deal of sense to go via the Atlantic route instead – it would be just as easy to get a boat at a major harbour like New York, and if that was heading for the Med it would get them much closer to home. Going east also keeps them in the UCAS all the way, so less border hopping (though that’s less of an issue now in their stealth bird) and working with a contiguous government, English speaking and generally understood land. Even if they don’t take the boat, the actual over-water portion is much shorter, and it’s a lot easier to hop from north-east US > Greenland > Iceland > Scandinavia than the Pac-Rim journey, saving them on fuel and time. So – after a lot of to and fro they decided to head east, and started trying to decide on which smuggler stop to use.

Fortunately, I knew the journey wasn’t going to be super quick and easy because of what had gone on at the border – because although I have all of the smuggler stops on the map and laid out, I’ve got only basic details on the NPCs and contents for each – I wasn’t expecting us to get there quite so quickly, so they’ve not been fully fleshed out. Eeek!

So, after the game session, it was down to the Shadowrun shelf to grab the Smuggler Havens book, Target: UCAS and Shadows of North America to do some quick reading over the weekend to swot up on what they should be encountering and work out some more detail for Detroit and the smuggler bases.

The encounter at the border stopped them cold – as it should have done. Behind the scenes of course, Ehran knew the horror was going to be almost impossible to defeat totally, and very difficult to stop – and that the players would need some assistance. He also knew – intimately – how tied up the 7th Cav were with Indian history… as you may have guessed I’ve totally jumped onboard with Ehran definitely being Daniel Howling Coyote, and a ‘secret’ immortal elf living with and working on the Native American agenda for some considerable time. Maybe he has guilt about the massacre itself, being a failure to prepare / plan properly on his part. Either way, he needed to get the 7th Cav to apologise to the NAN for their actions, lifting the curse placed on them and providing some much needed astral backup to level the battlefield. To do that he leveraged Damian Knight and his relationship with President Heffner and the UCAS in the wake of Bug City, though I would well imagine it used up more than a single favour owed – to get an entire Cavalry division moving with almost no notice and perform an ad-hoc military ceremony on the edge of a foreign border would be hard enough – to do it without letting any of the Brass get in there and ruin it with shallow speeches and platitudes was near miraculous. Maybe he had to use a re-roll or something. *grin*

Anyway – that kind of activity – having an entire division of armed troops closing on your border with no strategic warning is likely to scare the shit out of the Sioux nation, and make them go to Defcon 1, sending the border into an unassailable nightmare crossing that shouldn’t even be attempted – at least until word gets out of what happened, and things calm down.

Symbolically, the presentation of the 20 medals of honour laid out over the Sioux flags is a formal apology to the descendants of those killed, not only for the action of the massacre, but also for regarding those that carried it out as “heroic”. I’m not sure the team got the reference. Back when Icemaiden was giving them the history lesson, she did cover off the award of the medals – but Marius (with his perfect memory) was back in the tilt-wing, so didn’t hear this part. Otherwise I’d have fed that to the team as something he recalled – but he can’t recall what he didn’t hear. I’m not sure it’s a big thing, or that important in the grand scheme of things, but it would be nice for them to know that there was a definite causal link between the two.

So, that gave them long enough on the ground for Shimazu to come round and try to ground himself and revel in being alive, and for the team to investigate him a little – with all of the players being LARPers, we’ve all played through enough body-snatcher type plotlines that they were *ALL* very suspicious and expecting him to turn rabid at any moment – at least to start off with.

In the notes below I’d pre-written not only the news story to read out to the players to show them why the border was all crazy, but also the briefing sent to Shimazu to let him know what he experienced while he was in limbo. I’ve left this in, even though he’s only revealed a part of it (and some of that incorrectly), so you can see what’s going on. This is very strongly based on the descriptions at the end of the Harlequins Back printed adventure when they quest team are restoring Thayla’s voice to ward off the horrors at the spike point for the main ghost dance, and on the stuff from the Dragonheart Shadowrun books, dealing with other attempted horror crossings and what Aztechnology is up to.

Of course – now that Aswon has the signature of the horror, it’s going to be *super* interesting to see his expression when they eventually bump into the Bloodmage that sicked the bloodspirit on them in the desert a while back and realise they’re pretty much identical – and that Aztechnology and their mage cabal are behind the attempted bridge efforts… but that’s for further down the line.

Last of all – on the note of Shimazu and his “death”. As I mentioned previously, one thing I was very careful with was not to break the cardinal rules of magic in Shadowrun – no time travel, no teleportation and no resurrection. Shimazu was *nearly* dead, but not quite there yet, so it took a ritual to pull him back. This whole thing was pre-planned to be a pivotal moment in the character’s development – that willingness to do the “No Mr President!” dive in front of the deadly attack, saving someone else potentially at the cost of his own life.
Way back, when I was developing the campaign, I’d decided I wanted to inject a tiny bit of high-fantasy like elements, in that each of the characters was going to have a “special thing” – a weapon, ability or trait that would give them a unique advantage compared to a normal Shadowrunner.

  • Aswon has his spear – a unique 4th age dragon-hunting weapon crafted by the elves. So far he’s unlocked 2 “levels” of abilities – the first “The Shield of the Mind” gave him personal shielding, while the 2nd “The Way of Scales” gave him his fire-resistance. The third will unlock the “Legacy of the Cloud-Dancer” and will see him being able to use the anchored levitate spell on it (with comedic description the first time he tries it, you can rest assured – think Tony Stark when he was working on the flight controls for the Mk 1 suit).
  • Kai has the “Soul Crystal” – the purple gem that entered his body up in the Russian Tundra when they were fighting the Yakut spirits. It’s not really come to much yet, but essentially gives him a “Jedi mind trick” kind of control, an extension beyond the commanding voice talent, that affects NPCs with a willpower < (grade/2) As he levels up, that will become much more valuable – “no, you want to give us the fuel for free…” for instance could be a game changer at airports!
  • Marius will be getting his sooner rather than later it seems – assuming he’s happy to go under the knife at Ares in their Delta clinic. He’s going to get an experimental and highly advanced prototype set of cyberware that combines a VCR with wired reflexes, giving him the same initiative boost both in and out of vehicles – and that with frequent firmware patches and updates will level up like the other characters abilities to eventually morph into an equivalent of move-by-wire.
  • Hunter and Tads have yet to discover their powers – Hunter’s is slated to come from Aden when they get back to him, and Tads will get hers probably when they head to Africa to rescue Aswon’s tribe (ooh – spoilers!)
  • And Shimazu? Well he has “The Blood of the Tribes” now – based on his willingness to sacrifice himself for others, it’s given him a “super-geas” that applies to all of his powers, lowering the cost and letting him get a bit more oomph – but also he gets a “Paladin of the Righteous” ability, granting +1 mystic armour and +1 magic resistance as a spirit power rather than costing power points. They’ll scale up as well with further karma cost as the adventure progresses.

So – that’s *why* he had a miraculous near-death experience – it was to the be the catalyst for that change. While I’m not actively seeking any character deaths, and will generally stat the encounters as carefully as I can to avoid unnecessary deaths – I’m not going to shield them from their mistakes if they happen. Certainly they’re all pretty experienced now, and the training wheels are off – so if they make a boo-boo, and lose a character, then it’s time to introduce someone new to the story!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 16/10/2060, Location: 43.04661, -102.37761, Time 10:45
2. Ehran sends braves to recover the body of Shimazu and bring it down to the circle, and lay it in the centre. Shamans start the ritual
3. Ehran - "We must provide a link to he that has been cast asunder. The body dies while the mind wanders, and there is precious little time." Pulls out a 'talking stick' and lights the ends. Maisie will describe it for the team - only the holder of the talking stick may speak, it is passed around to ensure that all who wish to speak can do so.
4. E "I remember meeting Shimazu as if it were yesterday. Though he knew little about me, he bowed to me deeply, showing respect and consideration. Not once has he ever interrupted me while I was speaking. A man of honour, and a man committed to preserving the lives of those he deemed worthy." Turns the stick 90 degrees. All chorus "We remember". Passes the stick to Maisie
5. M "I remember meeting him, and wondering if I had offended him - for he spoke little. But I found out that he was quiet, listening more than speaking, observing much and saying little. But, he was always willing to help, and when I had to stow my gear upon their aircraft, he helped ensure that my weapons were correctly secured. He was so careful with my bow, handling it gently and with reverence when he saw that it was hand crafted. He seemed to place great stock in the craftsmanship and time invested." Tips the stick, "We remember"
6. Tads "I remember - first time we met, escaping with cages, helped with my job, elk protector and defender, as was he, he did it well, we remember
7. Marius "I let him drive my truck and he didn't crash it. Might even let him drive it again, maybe. And he was a lot better than Kai."
8. Aswon "Force of nature with unhealthy obsessions, but strong tough and my friend, we remember"
9. Hunter "He liked them dammed leeches more than me, maybe because of where he was born, but I liked him anyway"
10. Kai "Like all good weapons, he knew when to use his skills when needed, that's got to be worth remember, like all good tools, he knew when not to kill. WR"
11. The ritual carries on, shaman beating on their thighs, waving from side to side, smoke coiling around them as their eyes roll back in their head and they chant and sing in a complex melody.
12. *Roll 18d6, 1s indicate a corrupted / turning shaman that is sacrificed by the brave behind them with a swift tomahawk blow to the neck, the blood spilling into the ritual circle and quickly being absorbed into the ground.
13. 1,2,3 Sioux, 4,5 Crow, 6,7 X Navaho, 8,9 Hidatsa, 10,11 Arapaho, 12 Cree, 13 Plains Chippewa, 14 Blackfoot, 15 Apache, 16 Cheyenne, 17 Mohawk, 18 X shamen representing the other tribes
14. Roll 17+18,
15. The ritual goes on for several minutes, with any shaman being sacrificed at intervals as the Horrors try to corrupt them. On the completion of the ritual, Shimazu's soul is pulled back into his body with a convulsive heave, he awakens with a scream that goes on for several seconds until Ehran Stunbolts him 'to give him time to recover, and adapt to his condition'.
16. Aswon - "Explain"?
17. If anyone questions his 'condition', then Ehran will respond with "Well, being alive, after being on the brink of death, after being stretched across the gulf and nearly consumed of course." But then will say nothing more about it.
18. Tads - can I heal them?
19. Ehran - no - they are beyond saving.
20. When Shimazu recovers and awakens he may describe what happened from his POV:
21. As the bolt hit, his consciousness is pulled from his body, ripped out of the mortal flesh and pulled up, out and away. Like a rocket blasting off into space, his soul vaulted from his body, but instead of the world behind him, it was feelings and memories, visions of things from his past. Instead of the world behind him, he just saw a 'land' a featureless plains that stretched out in either direction to the horizon. Ahead and below him was a chasm, a massive void that was just full of nothingness. It wasn't black - his eyes just couldn't see anything at all, and it made him feel strange to even look at it. Ahead of him was darkness, a blackness that makes his soul shrivel. The horror was holding on to him with tentacles leeching cold into his skin, barbs piercing his flesh and drawing out his life force as he was carried aloft. Ahead of him, beyond the chasm he could see another land, full of more creatures like the horror, hungry and reaching out towards him. He couldn't see any detail ahead, but he could feel the nature of the place - a place without hope, love, empathy, compassion. No joy or pride, no happiness, not even contentment. It was as if the entire place was built out of only the negative emotions of humanity - hatred, fear, desperation, loathing, jealousy and rage. As he pulled away from the land and closer to the place across the chasm, he could feel pain - looking behind him he could see his life force unravelling behind him, stretching out towards the land, anchored to his memories, forming a bridge or conduit behind him. More and more of him was being consumed the further they went, and you know that if you're pulled all the way over to the other side, only a tiny fraction of your soul will remain, linking the place of horrors to where you've come from.
22. something catches your eye as you gain altitude though - the place where you have come from is a small promontory, sticking out from the land on your side. A way over there is a much larger slab of rock sticking out, with strange energies swirling around it, and a single golden figure that stands guard, looking towards the other side. Just looking at the figure gives you a burst of hope, a feeling of warmth.
23. When you look back at the land where you came from, you can see a bunch of figures climbing the bridge you're creating, charging towards you, clawing their way up the link you created to reach you. Tentacles lash at them, striking some of them, driving into their souls and forcing them to slow, you can see them mutating and changing before you, moving to strike at their comrades and distract them - but then they suddenly fall from the bridge, disappearing into the void below.
24. They reach you, forming a human chain - drawing you back, away from the horror, away from the darkness, back towards the feelings of light, warmth and life. Then you awaken in the circle, surrounded by the shaman and the rest of the team, screaming in agony as the last hold of the horror is ripped away from you as it catapults back, unable to grip you anymore.
25. Shimazu - special power unlocked - "Blood of the Tribes" Based on his fiery determination from the awakened land, gained at the site of the great ghost dance. All magical powers transform into geased versions, based on selflessness and sacrifice to protect his charge. All of your powers are now geased tied to your bodyguard / sacrifice / selflessness and willingness to take the hit for Kai. This drops your powers points to 10.5 / 13 spent, so you can instantly get another 2.5 power points of abilities if you wish.
26. Like Aswon, you can also spend 5 good karma if you wish on the "Blood of the Tribes" ability. If you do, let me know and I'll tell you the effects.
27. When the ritual is complete, the shaman will sing, lamenting those who fell. They will turn to the team, informing them that the "Blood of the tribes is on his hands" gesturing to the form of Shimazu, then turn and walk away, back the way they came. Braves will cluster around the dead shaman, bearing them aloft and carrying them away.
28. E "I'd better go with them and sort things out with the tribes." Stops and looks at the valley and the slaughter. "I think you'd better head off - too many questions, not enough answers that people will find paletable. Stay with your friend and comfort him - he may be in need of your support when he awakens - he's been through a traumatic experience." Turns and heads after the shaman. Maisie will go with, bidding the team goodbye.
29. Aswon - will we meet for a debrief - E, no, probably not.
30. Kai - passes over business card. We will be in touch
31. Aswon - danger signs?
32. E - alienation, don't leave him alone, traumatic events
33. Marius calls for the tilt-wing, Aswon heading to graveyard, Kai asks Tads to cleanse spells,
34. Tads checks - probably not a problem.
35. Marius brings the tilt wing in and checks the door to the cockpit can be closed/locked, worried about zombies.
36. Check graveyard and look for signature - Aswon gets a hint of its signature, (15), not 100% confident, but pretty good.
37. Hunter checking the ground - looks like a heavy sled dragged over the ground where the horror had been.
38. Team should head back to the bird (or bring the bird to them remotely) load up and get out, before the authorities arrive and charge them with mass-murder.
39. Stow the weapons, get back on the bird.
40. Maisie heads off, gets a thanks from the team, goes after shamen
41. Kai - we should find where the horror is and do it there.
42. Marius - better have a better plan, because we did somewhere between fuck and all...
43. Aswon - yeah, we need more experience to do something like that.
44. Tads - when we stop again, I'll head back to the temple near tashkent and *very* carefully check it out.
45. Aswon - it went back to its metaplane I think, so it could come back anywhere it wants to. It might be the temple if that's a place of power...
46. Hunter starting search for major memmorials - especially if there is a grave yard ( thinkking along the lines of the US memorial at omaha beach or the somme battlefield memorial)
47. Start to discuss routing and fuel - heading out of sioux ASAP into Salish?, then refuel via the barrels and work out what to do. Aswon suggests going to Detroit, then east coast.
48. Look at map, equidistant either way, plenty of stops along the way, big ports along the east coast. Kai aware of plenty of smuggling routes that way.
49. Kai - does anyone have issues with Europe? Marius - avoid Germany. H - and the uk, go via Scandinavia.
50. Kai - and can the bird make it through that weather? Marius - yeah, it should be a little warmer thanks to the gulf stream, doable in a few hops. Marius favours eastern seaboard and freighter, chance to relax a little.
51. Kai favours going to Crate city first, then can go to either Detroit or New York from there.
52. Agree to go to crate city - 965km. Kai goes to call ahead - no answer. Redirect to Purple People Eater? Tads suggests waiting until in UCAS
53. Vehicle stealth 11, Handling check- actually not great, but ok (3 successes), sensor check - spot wall of shit ahead. Kai border check - like a war break out.
54. Putting down to wait it out, Marius not sure if he can go around.
55. Hunter looking for news reports after Aswon asked
56. The news report - a suitable NPC will prod them, or they will discover the report themselves.
57. "Experts are still reeling from the events of Saturday the 16th, when the UCAS military moved to the border with Sioux lands without warning. We cut now to footage, from the event shot by Specialist Albarez attached to the Military Media liaison office, standing on the old US Route 20 highway, about five kilometres west of Crookston..." Shaky camera work initially that steadies, showing a whole division of APCs, ground tanks, hovercraft, heavy 8 X 8 trucks and Humvees approaching in line abreast, non-tactical. They close on the camera position, forming an extended line. Camera pans over towards the left, showing vehicles stretching as far as the eye can see, a fence stretching off to the horizon running down the side of a dirt road to the left. Overhead choppers also fly forwards in line abreast, about two hundred and fifty metres up. They all stop about a hundred metres from the fence. The camera pans left, showing a border checkpoint manned by worried looking Sioux border guards, and a force of tanks, APCs and choppers approaching fast, in a less organised fashion. They deploy around the gate, with troops deploying hurriedly and uncertainly.
58. The camera pans back to the right, and then zooms in on one of the trucks, where a platoon of cavalry troopers climb down, all in their dress uniforms, passing out rifles with fixed bayonets and covers over their scopes. Once the platoon is armed, they form a double line and march as evenly as they can over the rough ground forward of the truck, then split into two lines, arcing out from each other until the last man is level with the first. Trucks further down the view are doing likewise, until there is a row of soldiers in dress uniform stretching away into the distance.
59. A drummer out of camera shot starts a slow steady beat, and the line starts to move forward, undulating as those nearest the road hear and react to the cue first, the rest following along, and they march forwards slowly and steadily, at a pace seen normally only at funerals and remembrance parades. They continue until they reach the edge of the dirt road, the line becoming a little raggedy as they strugle over the ditch in their best uniforms and dress boots, but quickly work to get back into a single dressed line. Within a minute a line of unbroken blue stretches out to the low rise forming the horizon of the road, yellow piping and collars catching the weak morning sunlight.
60. A blur passes in front of the camera view, and it rapidly pulls back to bring into focus another platoon of troops, also in their dress uniforms. Each of these is noticeable in having more braid and decorative flourishes, along with a lot more medals, with most of them having sergeant rank stripes. Each bears a folded
61. Sioux flag, the deep red material immaculately folded with the white central designs of the ring of tepees showing in the middle, face up. On top of each flag lays a single medal, ribbon neatly laid out. The bearers march forwards, then performing a similar split - but this time one left, one right until they have formed a line abreast across the road. Once more the drummer starts a slow beat, and they march forward in unison, much tighter than the troops in the fields as they walk across the blacktop, approaching the checkpoint. Sioux soldiers have now come through, rifles at the ready and confusion evident on their faces as they watch the approaching UCAS soldiers.
62. As the troops close to about 5m, they stop, feet stamping to attention and arms rigidly holding the flags before them. The drums stop, and a lone bugle plays the Last Post. Other than the drone of rotorcraft engines hovering over the fields, nothing else is audible, nothing is moving. As the last notes fade away, the entire line of troops in their dress uniforms throw and hold a salute towards the sioux lands, rippling down the line as each trooper takes their cue from the man to his left. The camera swings round to show the platoon on the road each take one step forward then extend their arms forward, holding the flag out to be taken. One of the border guards comes forward, looking around somewhat wildly and then shoulders his rifle, comes to attention in front of the UCAS trooper and extends both hands to take the flag - for a moment, four hands grip the flag holding it in place and the troopers stare at each other, then the 7th cavalry troops releases his hold, hand almost stroking the flag as it slides through his fingers and takes one step back, raising his hand in salute and holding it.
63. Seeing what happened, more Sioux troops come through the checkpoint, shouldering their weapons to free their hands and pairing off with a UCAS equivalent, receiving the flag and medal, then getting a sharp salute, until the last pair have exchanged at 10:26am.
64. The drummer starts again, and the presentation squad drop their salute, stand briefly to attention then do an about face and return back to wherever they came from, reversing the previous manoeuvre until they are marching away in single file. All along the line, the other Cav troopers drop their salute, do an about face and then march back across the field towards the waiting trucks. Engines start all up and down the line, and tanks and APCS do a 180, tracks churning the ground to mud and ripping up the stubble from the fields, then start to motor away from the border. Once the heavy armour has moved, and the troops have boarded their trucks, they pull into tight circle and also head east, following along behind the armour. The video feed cuts, returning back to the anchors in the studio.
65. Hunter - what direction is that? Gets directions - goes astral to look at the signature.
66. Those were the scenes on the UCAS Sioux border, as elements of the 2nd Cavalry brigade, lead by the 7th cavalry regiment approached unexpectedly to apparently render military honours in a surprise ceremony. Shortly after the event concluded, there was a press release from the White House. Vice President Nadja Daviar appeared and gave a short statement, citing the event as a "historic chance to heal the wounds of the past and foster better co-operation and understanding between our two great nations. The only way not to repeat the mistakes of the past is to learn from them, and the best way to defeat your enemies is to make them your friends."
67. The nation seems to be divided with a majority that welcome the peace initiative on one hand and a small but very vocal minority that seem to regard the move as pandering to the indians and their threat to the UCAS way of life on the other. On the show tonight, we'll have live interviews from across the UCAS to discuss further, along with expert commentary back here in the studio.
68. And now, in other news, UCAS Secretary of Defence Gerald Hughes took delivery of three wings of Ares Phoenix class LAVs (Marius / Aswon may recognise as being similar to Aztech Lobo LAVs) following the brokerage of a new financing deal with Ares Arms. The UCAS military is expected to start taking delivery of the new craft over the next few weeks, replacing some of the aging McDonnell-Dougless Thunderbolt strike craft that have been the mainstay of the air-cav squadrons.
69. And now, over to the weather...."
70. Tads check - surprise and confusion mostly, satisfaction near the border checkpoint. Lots of media and spirits though.
71. Kai checks time stamp - matches the arrival of the 7th cav to fight the horror.
72. Agree to wait for an hour. Check the craft over and astral traces.
73. Shimazu tries to roll out of bed, finds himself secured to the bed, can't reach sword, calls for it - Kai doesn't want to, tells him to keep it sheathed, Shimazu asks again. Aswon stands out of range with spear and nods to Kai. Shimazu gets passed sword, pulls out a bit of blade, runs hand down and feels the blood / pain, sighs in relief. Kai sights, biotechs himself while Shimazu curls up into a ball. Shimazu makes sure it's light.
74. Asks for Oats - Tads makes warm oatmeal.
75. Shimazu - I was stretched, into nothing. Goes to fall back asleep.
76. Tads - we got him into the ward without it going off when he was unconcsious, so it was "still him"
77. Team check him over, spot him being vibrant and alive, with a bit of "hopeful", no apparent magical link.
78. 12:00 - sensors show it's calming down, but still lots of units watching. Marius advises to wait for nightfall. Team chill until dusk. Shimazu recovers stun, turns off pain resistance to feel the slice.
79. Asks Aswon to uncuff him. Aswon gives him a look, then complies. "We're frogs in a well - I've...seen things. Who was the golden man?" A-what at the meeting? Golden man - it was dark before. It wasn't the clown man, he was a force of nature, nothing I've seen before." A-it was probably Ehran then, or one of the shaman. S-I saw them fall off the bridge. I need some time to figure this out. A-practice your breathing, meditate on it. Answers will come. Aswon joins in meditating. Kai outside on astral guard.
80. Aswon reminds Shimazu to feel the bond between the group, concentrate on that. Psychometry - guilt from Tads, regret, glad to have him back.
81. S - looks up at Tads, thanks -
82. T - my job, protect and defend people.
83. A - what you did to that bolt - it nearly worked. You just need to work it out and do better next time.
84. S - "you're welcome" to Kai - then back to meditating.
85. Tads doing more spell design time.
86. End of arc, defeated the horror - 5 karma for everyone except Shimazu and Aswon (deeds)
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 211 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Having had plenty of detail and slow moving stuff going on for quite some time, I thought it was time to change up the pace a little on the players – so a quick check to cross the border, then smooth sailing to Crate City to meet the Gallagher family – Justine (Khaki) who runs the military surplus store and smuggler stop, Lionel her brother who is the town sheriff (in a town where they still run the local police force, which should strike the players as unusual to say the least) and Samuel, the town mayor (who they haven’t met or heard about, but have contributed to his re-election fund). Needless to say the family have the town sown up pretty tightly…
Of course, stopping at a location like this caused a bit of a shopping frenzy, but allowed them to refill their supplies and get a few bits of special ammo – including some very experimental Panther cannon rounds with double the normal explosive power and only a slight risk of malfunction in the breech. On one of the most powerful hand-held weapons ever made. What could go wrong?
I did also get asked when “Jeffers” was talking with Marius if I’d taken the character Mator from Cars to heart – which stopped me an made me think for a moment. That wasn’t actually the inspiration – I was going for the annoying kid asking about mileage in Home Alone – but realised it probably wasn’t too far from how Jeffers ended up coming across, so just rolled with it.
But, with the shopping done, they could try and get a job, and I threw them a nice easy mission to take some APDS ammo to the Mafia in New York, dropping it off at the docks. It won’t make them much money (depending on how hard they negotiate – but they have Kai as a handicap!) but it will get them a contact in the port and potentially help them get shipped by boat if they decide not to call in the Maersk favour, or at least get them fuel to start heading up towards Greenland if they go the polar circle route to Scandinavia.
Once loaded up and having met Lionel the Sheriff, they took off for a mostly uneventful journey to Detroit – a random encounter popped up but Marius aced his handling check and the stealth held, so they got away without incident. Reasonable planning on the approach and thinking about stuff, and them heading into to a corporate airfield meant no trouble with the transponder, and they landed just fine.
The security was a “bit crap” on the way to the facility – intentionally, as they corp hadn’t had much time to arrange things, and the fact that Damian Knight had signed off on this one made some people in the organisation nervous and got them in the mindset of “just make it happen” – I wanted to show the players that even the big corps mess up and make silly mistakes at times, and the power of the CEO can cause great screw-ups as well as fix things. So, they have a pretty good idea of where the Ares Delta clinic is now, which could be very valuable (or very dangerous) information to have in the future.
Down in the underground base I was trying to describe a very stark facility – going for a “Stargate” kind of vibe when describing the tunnels.
The team also discovered a null cloud, caused by some wandering Strain III FAB floating around in the tunnels, another sign that perhaps not everything is quite as controlled at Ares as they might hope, that will come back in the future (along with the Strain III).
To round out the night we had them trying to persuade Marius to go for the medical examination in preparation for his surgery and upgrades. A few moments of levity here, with the team trying to steal medical supplies directly from the doctors and then lots of jokes about probing and lube, and backless gowns – but what can you do?
I got my smiles in too, as Lee confidently told me that he’d be surprised if they could upgrade Marius much more because his cyberware was really good, what with it being Delta grade. Before I could even get a word in, Hunter/ Justin was asking – “are you sure?” because he was pretty sure he’d been the only one to take the Delta-ware edge at character gen. Lee was mystified when he checked his sheet and saw that while he has good ‘ware (it is Beta after all), there’s actually plenty of room for improvement. So, off he went for an examination, and that’s where we called it for the night.
Next week we should fast-forward through the waiting, and they’ll start building his ware for him to be ready in a while (which I’ll probably get shipped over to an Ares facility in Europe somewhere for implantation, to make it closer and easier for them to get back to), and they can continue to head on to New York, with a view to heading back to the ranch and getting back to Nadia for the birth of the baby, some downtime and some skilling up / initiation. At least, that’s why I *think* they’re planning. But with this lot – who knows?

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 16/10/2060, Location: 43.04507, -101.02705, Time 18:51
2. Play starts with the team in a spinney about 20km short of the border, having gone to ground to wait out the increased activity.
3. About 858 km from Crate City
4. Stealth check 10, Handling check two very good successes.
5. Nav check for Hunter, avoid the airbase and come in due south towards Tomah.
6. Kai calls ahead - Toroh military surplus. Coming in to land. Land, not drive? Give dimensions, arrange employee car park.
7. Come in, fly over Bloyer field, 1.2km runway
8. Come in to land, smoker goes inside to alert Khaki. Change camo to UPS.
9. Marius arms and armours up - refuses to leave cockpit without protection.
10. Kai and Shimazu leave to head over to meet Khaki, along with Aswon. "Hi how are ya?!" I'm Kai, this is some of the team, rest are still in the bird. We understand this is crate city. "Not exactly subtle" We try to blend in, just after some supplies and fuel. Out of your hair soon. "Easiest to go over to the airport for fuel, but we can help you with some supplies. Or do you need SUPPLIES? Always in the market for supplies.
11. Kai drops into conversation that he got details from Iceman66? Kai - ok, seems to get on with our decker. Aswon asks if anyone smuggles that way - sometimes, land trains. Aswon - may have something to take to Iceman66.
12. Huge warehouse, multiple nations, smell. Aswon asks about munitions. Over at the counter.
13. Gets contact details for Jeffers at the airport who looks after maintenance. Marius calls Jeffers, high price, 858km = 6435. 10-15 min wait, not unusual but not common. Tads doing spell design.
14. Rough description of contents of crate city, surplus, gear, mix of 2nd hand and surplus, some battle damaged.
15. Aswon gets a bunch of misc survival equipment to top up supplies. Kai gets a night vision scope - hand held. Flares and flare gun. Look for arrows, spot some - perception check, ex-Olympic athlete -Kai spots the pixilation from the photoshop effort. Ceramic knife sharpening stones and a variety of others. Flash packs and flash bangs - no concussion grenades. Khaki goes off for a shopping cart for them.
16. Kai looks for self-inflating boat - finds a suitcase sized version
17. Aswon asks for places to get local fruit - not here, some shops in the middle of town.
18. Kai takes off to one side, asks for "special goods, behind the counter stuff." Checks his credit, finish shopping, meet me at the counter.
19. Bug scans, comms dark. What are you after and where you headed? Kai "heading towards new york then overseas."
20. Don't know you - can do biz, explains the deal.
21. Gets 30 rounds rifle APDS 420
22. 10 rounds panther ex-ex super frag 900
23. 10 rounds of capsule rounds 200
24. IPE Offensive grenades 500
25. Tactical comms units, set of 5, R4 = 60k - declined
26. Aswon checks random ammo to ensure it's ok.
27. Jeffers asks questions about the bird - millage, auto windscreens etc
28. Possible mission from Justine/Khaki - "buy" a crate of APDS to take to New York harbour and deliver to Don Guiseppes men on the dock.
29. Cargo weight 1000kg, 2CF, 4000 rounds, buy 56k value, sell up to 112k open market, actual sell 75k at NY
30. Half way through the loading, police car approached. Kai asks - friend of yours? Probably.
31. Police benevolent fund? No - mayoral. Lionel comes out, friends of yours, who's cooking dinner, see you later.
32. Load up the bird - Kai asks for details about how to fly, contact - Khaki "hey, that's your department, nothing to do with me, I don't wanna know. you sort it."
33. Logistics department - book an appointment? Mr Kai, 1.5 hours. I see, how will you arrive. By air, give dimensions, so a tilt wing? Yes, we can mask paint. Windows international airport, Ares livery but in red not standard colours, car will meet you.
34. Takeoff and head east, random encounter at Milwaukee - police chopper and escort taking off, Marius goes evasive, not spotted. Rest of journey is fine, loop around south side of international airport, then put on transponder - one not used in North America. Smooth landing on 3km runway, lit with ILS.
35. Ares limo waiting at Hanger, all going. Remote open door, some TR55C inside, taxi in and shutdown.
36. I'm Mr Johnson, you have a pickup? I'm kai, introduce rest of team.
37. We're going to a secure facility, but you're welcome to bring weapons, just don't damage the upholstery. Mostly mid-armed.
38. Asks team to put hoods on, rather than gassing as it's more pleasant. Hunter enables internal GPS.
39. Tads - we're going to have a problem. Mask is opaque - Shimazu won't want to be in the dark. Gives Ares advert on tablet to put inside the bag.
40. Describe, the journey, Mr Johnson now thinking about masks with inbuilt compliance entertainment.
41. Into the broom cupboard, squeeze together, twist corn broom to the left. In and drops down 12-14 stories.
42. Arrive in the underground facility, Aswon has to tip his head.
43. Waiting man in lab coat, thumb scans issues ID. Leads through tunnels.
44. Tads and Aswon magical checks - spot blast doors with wards, some normal wards, down one side passage - the void down one side passage
45. Aswon owwww, asks for details, containment breach, calls it in.
46. Into medical suite, ahh - you're the patient.
47. Aswon? What? Nothing was explained.
48. Aswon asks for aspirin - ares branded. Insufficient chairs - anti-coagulants, snatch those for hunter. Kai asks for anti-venom, snaps, shut up and sit down.
49. Presentations - very deep medical stuff, Marius 1 success, Kai 1, get a general feeling of what it is.
50. Workup will take 6 hours or so, ask for copy of scans afterwards.
51. Marius being led off with backless gown in hand looking a little nervous, rest of team staying in waiting room.
52. 630 km from Crate City to Detroit
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 212 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Picking up the action in the “secret underground lair ™”, we had five hours of IC time to get through – giving the rest of the team a little bit of chat time, but otherwise a fast forward overnight to when Marius returns and they headed back to the airport – with much better security this time (though Ares is unaware the damage has been done by their idiot escort on the way to the facility – though it remains to be seen what if anything the players will do with that information.)
With a smooth trip possible thanks to legit flight plans and source/destination airports, the journey was going to be uneventful – but as soon as Kai got in touch with the contact they got the feeling the drop-off wasn’t going to be quite so easy. When Kai announced they’re be there in 90 minutes, he got a hard, flat “no”, that stopped conversation dead, and then he had to ask for details and haggle a meeting, and be precise about the times.
They nearly messed things up by then trying to arrange a taxi from the airport – so I had Kai make a ‘smuggling’ roll on his background skills to remind him they’d arranged to come in by air, and that a change of plans might not be a good call. If they had gone in by ground, it would probably have turned into a gunfight as the Mafia assumed it was either a setup by the Feds, or a rival hit from the Triads/Yaks/Vory/Seolpa rings etc. Fortunately they ‘remembered’ what they had agreed, and stuck with the original plan.

When I was plotting out the coming weeks, I’d made allowances for the two main possibilities – flying backup the coast and over Greenland/Iceland/Scandinavia, or getting a boat. For the air journey I’d planned out and put smuggler/pirate stops in to make it possible (though difficult in some places due to the range), and for the boat journey I’d gone for two options. The first was to call in their favour with Maersk, so I dug out two possible ships and destinations at random (actually by going to and ) and looking for Maersk vessels, picking the first two and pulling the details up. For the others, the plan was to have those made ‘available’ from the Mafia contact they were selling the ammo to, and again using those websites I just grabbed a bunch of ships that were mid-atlantic, and pulled the details and destinations to give me a good mix of results.
The ships they could have boarded from the Mafia were:
• 0,Stolt Sun, 163 X 25m, 9.3m draught, Oil / Chemical tanker, 13.4 Knots, Antwerp 6215 km, 251 hours
• 1,Riva, 180 X 32m, 9.9m draught, Cargo vessel, 11.8 knots, Casablanca, 5855 km, 268 hours
• 3,Morning Laura, 232 X 32m, 9.6m Draught, Vehicle Carrier, 16 knots, Suez Canal, 9475 km, 320 hours
• 3,Bremen Belle, 280 X 40m, 10.2m draught, Container ship, 18.1 knots, Algeciras (west of Gibralter), 6047 km, 180 hours
• 4,Amoy Dream, 190 X 32m, 13.1m draught, Bulk Carrier, 10.3 knots, Gibraltar, 6050 km, 318 hours
• 4,Crystal Angel, 230 X 37m, 10.8m draught, Tanker, 16.3 knots,Sines (portugal, just south of Lisbon), 5904 km, 196 hours
• 5,Adams, 280 X 40m, 11.2m draught, Container Ship, 18.1 knots, Suez Canal, 9475 km, 283 hours
While the two Maersk ships were:
• 3,Mary Maersk, 399 X 60m, 12.5m draught, Container ship, 12.2 knots, Bremerhaven, 6725 km, 298 hours
• 8,Eugen Maersk, 399 X 56m, 15m draught, Container ship, 15.8 knots, Oman, 13847 km 474 hours
As it happened, they ‘annoyed’ the Mafia contact a little, and he got a little antsy, so they decided they didn’t want to deal with him any more than they had to, so they stuck with the Maersk option.
The Mafia contact I’d built as a bully-boy, a guy with a real chip on his shoulder, used to getting what he wanted and lording it over his underlings and those that got in his way. After a quick read of the Org Crime book, I’d decided which of the New York families this particular group was allied / subordinate with, what their goal was and then came up with Mikey Twelve-mil as their lead ‘enforcer’.
Don Guiseppe won't meet with the players, but his Sottocapo Mickey Twelve-mil will. (Ex-baseball minor leagues, going for the majors, cyberarm - stupidly good throwing skill / high strength, but thrown out of league. Killed a rival Consiglieri with a 12mm socket wrench that hit his temple when thrown)
Mafia families in New York - Carnetti, Columbo, Genovese (allegience), Lucchese and Bonanno
Don Guiseppe is angling to make his family the "enforcers" for the Genovese, which is why he's arranged for 4000 rounds of APDS...

As it turns out, none of this got found out by the players as they didn’t really talk to the contact, just annoyed him a little and made him want to flex on them, then they just tried to get their business done ASAP and get out of there, before they ended up owing the Mafia too much.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 16/10/2060, Location: 42.33466, -82.99549, Time 23:45
2. Start in the underground facility, waiting for Marius to come back. After thirty minutes of waiting the team are taken to a larger room with several sofas and vending machines, given a chance to stretch out and snooze until Marius is back at 05:30 on the Sunday. Tads asks for a F1 lodge - no.
3. Room is painted in institutional green+pink. Guest pass with some credit for vending machines. Medium credit - Kai maxes it out.
4. Team discuss the containment breach and how to fight. Aswon suggests getting Ares to file a flight plan for them from Detroit to NY.
5. Waiting - computer check on tv access. No material with current events / dates. Read ares catalogues. Team bored - Marius bored and prodded.
6. Dr will inform them they are starting manufacture, and it will take a month, maybe two for the cyberware and nanite treatments to be completed, then they will need to come back.
7. (If the distance is raised as an issue, then arrangements can be made to transfer to the Ares Europe clinic, located near Eindhoven. (just over one hop from the airport in Bulgaria))
8. Kai - back here? Somewhere else?
9. Dr Novak - not here, ooh, maybe? Denmark or Italy... no, not the right facilities - Netherlands, yeah, that will do.
10. Got the drugs. And a brochure on the chip for after-effects
11. Kai asks for FP to New York.
12. Don't know - not my department, can ask.
13. Tads asks for surgery time - about 8 hours
14. Aswon asks for recovery time - Dr N, should be quite short.
15. Tads - do we need facilities for that. No - just practice
16. Kai - is this illegal. Aswon - more important, is it detectable?
17. Dr N - no, and not really, very subtle.
18. Aswon asks for compatibility list - is there anything? Dr N - no.
19. Call the contact, can be in NY in about 1.5 hours. No - must get at least 4 hours notice. Ok, we can wait. Arrange for 11 - not 5 to, not 5 past. How you getting here - air, give specs. Confirm time again.
20. Check map - 10km from airport.
21. Ace the takeoff, legit flight, waypoints ok. Heading for NY, Newark Liberty
22. Kai about to call Johanna from Maersk, Tads suggests research first. Kai nah, doesn't matter.
23. Marius asks for FP to NY to Mr Johnson - no, not my area, can you at least call ahead - I will.
24. Once complete they are taken back up to the garage, and a different Johnson is waiting for them - they are gassed and this time they are jammed and have white noise played as well, just in case, for the return journey which is also more circuitous.
25. Wake up just outside the hanger. Mr J to Marius - FP arranged as requested. Told to tell you you're full, and you'll know what that means?
26. Cleared to Newark Liberty International Airport, Marius checks the birds - seems ok.
27. Back to the airport, they are refuelled for free, and then can taxi out and take off, heading for New York - 770km away
28. Get to Newark ok, landing, brusque controllers, directed to south of airport near courier / shippers.
29. Stop, Ares ground crew, ask them for taxi - all up at the PAX end, see if they can get a taxi. Smuggling check for Kai - already arranged for air travel,
30. Look at route, consider trying to steal a transponder for a while, mask as air taxi. Kai calls Johanna. Pleasantries . We're in New York.
31. Looking for transport. She checks - 3 Days Mary Maersk - Marius says to give the dimensions. Mentions aircraft, not truck, no upgraded
32. Offers them the two slots, brief discussion, told she can provide contact details for the local dockmaster at NY (Rusty Laker)
33. Team discuss Germany or Oman, getting off early at the N side of Suez, Marius does *NOT* want to go Germany. Shimazu thinks about going to Egypt to get PTSD looked at
34. Hunter look for local airport - Now Sunday 17th, Eugen Maersk due out at 25th. Plan to wait there until the 25th, then fly out past the 12 mile marker and land on the ship.
35. Kai call Monmouth Airport to arrange layover. 75 Nuyen per day in a secure hanger. Booked as Zunduin Khangal, conference, flying back.
36. Get flight plan, 30 mins, realise they will need an excuse - Aswon, loose cargo load, emergency set down.
37. Now about 9am, spell design, cleaning, general maintenance. Kai calls Anahita, travelling from NY to around her area, small cargo carrying available. 6 day window for pickup, coming across slow.
38. Takeoff ok, called from ATC, overshoot the turn, give the spiel about loose load. Where are you heading? Space on a dock. Corporate ground - we have no rights. Kai - we'll take it on our own responsibilities. 131.4mhz on takeoff to slot back into the plan
39. Spot the lego box, take photo to show dockmaster - like that! Head in, arm and armour up overtly.
40. Sent to the Port of New Jersey on contact told to give 4 hours notice - the Mafia will build a hollow cube for the tilt-wing to land in and be concealed by for the transfer
41. Restricted terrain, 7 success on landing, no problems
42. 12mm in SUV waiting, local dock workers in overalls with weapons, lands, heads over.
43. Kai, Shimazu, Hunter, going out to meet 12mm
44. Aswon on the ramp, visible and armed. Marius throttle down to min, Tads staying on board.
45. Hunter cybertech roll, troll arm installed on a human - must need reinforcements to the spine etc
46. You got a delivery for me. Sure have, come on over and have a look, no, you bring it out - Shimazu psych test, very dominant personality. S - do you want to check the cargo? Kai tries to butter him up - it's an ok test. not great, but not bad...
47. Gets defensive with Shimazu comment, Kai - we like to do stuff properly, told you do too. Gets a bit suspicious for the team, but accepts.
48. 12mm offers 75k. Kai counters with 78 to cover costs and a card for future work.
49. Asks where they're going next, offers boat deal for 75k + card.
50. Spits, offers hand, Kai will wince to let him show dominance, then backs off
51. Dockworker stands in front, radio call, waves for takeoff, up in the air. 15 min journey south to Monmouth, landing straight in, much more relaxed.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 213 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
COVID struck us this week, putting Tom/Shimazu out of action, so he was “in the blanket box” and not particularly active. However, this was probably the least bad week for that, as we were probably just doing a narrative catch up on training time while waiting for the shipping schedule.

Aswon went out to “live the magical lifestyle”, trying to eek out a few extra karma by doing stuff to get in touch with his magical nature – in this case lots of magical hunting and talismongering, and practicing his native skills, so he managed to eek out another 2 karma. This is something that came from our earlier campaigns, and normally requires a cash injection working on the “cash for karma” rules, and “living a magical lifestyle” was one way we justified in RP terms how this was working. In a heavy campaign like this one I allow one cash for karma per karma pool increment, for any character, and they have to justify how it’s working (helping the homeless, volunteer work at a shelter, vigilante patrols – whatever) to try and earn a few extra bits of karmic goodness. Hunter went with him to do some stealth training and maybe get some time in on learning survival, so that was pretty simple to do.

Tads wanted to initiate and was really angling for nullification as a technique, to try and be a better counter for things like Horrors and more advanced magical threats – but I had other ideas for her. Instead she had a choice of either Sensing (from Target:Awakened Lands or Mana Smoothing – a custom technique myself and Jez (Aswon) had come up with some time ago.

Mana Smoothing (and it’s counter – Mana Rush) allow you to modify the time / energy build up for a spell or magical action, either decreasing or increasing the drain.
• Depending on teacher / style – may be only available to anyone with Mana Rush
• The caster is able to extend the casting of a spell or magical task that has a drain element, gathering mana more slowly – but smoothly - than others.
• The base time for performing the action is the “increment”. A spell normally cast in one complex action would require two complex actions if you add one increment. A permanent spell normally taking 1 minute to cast would require 5 minutes if you used 4 increments. A ward that took four hours to prepare would take 8 hours with one increment, or 12 hours with two increments.
• Decrease the drain power of the spell by +1 for every “increment” of spell casting speed – e.g. casting a permanent healing spell with a base time of 10 rounds, would suffer -1 drain power to be cast in 20 rounds.
• You can modify the drain level of the task by -1 level, for two “increments” of time modification – e.g. casting a Force 5 Powerball (normally +1 (DL+1) drain code) spell at Serious would normally cause 3D drain. Choosing to cast this over three complex actions would instead result in a drain of 3S
A drain power cannot be modified below a base of 2, and a drain level cannot be modified below Light. The drain modifier is applied before items like background count / stun modifiers

For comparison – these are the rules for Mana Rush:
• Depending on teacher / style – may be only available to anyone with Mana Smoothing
• The caster is able to rush the casting of a spell or magical task that has a drain element, gathering mana more quickly than others.
• Increase the drain power of the spell by +1 for every “increment” of spell casting speed – e.g. casting a permanent healing spell with a base time of 10 rounds, would suffer +1 drain power to be cast in 5 rounds.
• Time cannot every be reduced below 1 complex action.
You can modify the drain level of the task by +1 level, for two “increments” of time modification – e.g. putting up a force 8 ward would normally take 8 hours and cause 8L drain. You could modify this to take only 2 hours, but instead soak 8M.

So – could be very useful for those “start of the day” spells to go on a sustaining foci, or when you have plenty of time to prepare – or are the ones kicking off the ambush.
These new metamagics are part of our expanded list, taking all the rules from MITS, adding in new powers from the later sourcebooks such as 2063/2064 etc and then sprinkling in some of our own that we felt would add some cool flavour to the world – hopefully without being broken or unbalancing. (I have a word document with all 54 techniques listed if anyone wants to see…)

Kai went off to get some shopping, and got in a spot of trouble – I had Shimazu technically with him as he’s not generally allowed out on his own as he gets in silly situations otherwise, so he wasn’t really in much danger – but did need to negotiate hard to get out from Knight Errants grasp!

Marius did some good work on the bird, extending the fuel range to 2000 km, which is a pain for me as I have to redraw the fuel map, but great for them as it opens up new opportunities. Oh well, the life of a GM is just unending toil…. *insert small_violin_noise.flac here…*
In terms of the narrative, rather than trying to do a day by day, I thought it would be easier and probably flow better to do it in the style of a briefing or update as they all came together at the end of the week. No problems trying to weave the events together into the correct timeline then, and much easier to structure the story and try to build up the world picture. At least, I hope so!
And, with all that done, they headed out for the rendezvous with the Maersk ship, managing to land ok and get introduced to the Captain, ready for a 2 week trip across to the Suez Canal.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 20/10/2060, Location: 40.18079, -74.12168, Time 11:25
2. Monmouth Jet centre - lots of private jets, finance types from NY with 2nd homes.
3. 97% white, 77% married with kids, affluent
4. Big storm surge defences, lots of beaches
5. Naval Weapons Station Earle to the N, 5km to 15km
6. Check around the party for intentions:
7. Aswon - camping / talismongering / living magical lifestyle
8. Tads - initiate, ask Nadia to get 9 units of lodge materials.
9. Kai - arts dealer chasing, contacting ludmilla/germaine etc
10. Hunter – electronics +B/R, stealth
11. Marius - training on mental skills, maintenance
12. Mission from Anahita - Ian McKellen memorial auction, Rhode Island - THE Colt 1911.
13. Tads suggests getting in touch with Milo, get new ID for Kai as one is burnt, going "near" Constantinople
14. Aswon gets 2 good kills for spear tips.
15. Woods perceptions.
16. Aswon and Hunter good spots on areas
17. Marius - lots of details on private planes, maintenance schedules - mixes with the blue collar people, cover story is executive couriers for rich clients. Trying to think if there's a better way to store stuff internally, or increase fuel range. 7 successes - modular shelves, take fuel tanks to 2000l - give base a tour of the craft, book in.
18. Kai calls Vadim - in a gunfight, toxic woodland desecration.
19. Kai rejects Anahita gun mission.
20. Kai contacts Rusty Laker - arranges to get onto the boat. one layer box, chains and tie downs, cammo nets - talk to captain Thomas Lutzein.
21. Kai calls Ludmilla - tells her about gun, offers courier - but asks for a job. trip too long - biologicals won't last that long.
22. Kai calls Germaine - gushes about hunting, they need better horses, offers to bring something over - courier work? Hunting coat, Parkers, Madison Square, COD. Sends details over to Kai for sizes,
23. Kai trip to NY - etiquette 4=3, negotiation + kinesics=6, magic check for special voice=4
24. Gangers hassle them on the way back, Shimazu dissuades.
25. Going to collect - same gangers spot them, fight kicks off, Shimazu+Kai draw tasers and fire. Kai drops 1st, 2nd shot, misses and hits civilian. Commanding voice = Drop it now! Everyone complies including Shimazu. Gangers WP test, triple 1, bolt and flee. Shimazu wants to chase, Kai stops. Biotech on the civi = all ok. Shimazu roll on police procedures. KE in NYC. Kai talks them out of the situation with good etiquette roll.
26. Aswon - talismongering fail, too many pesticides. Magic check vs 5 = 2, 2 karma
27. Kai also brings back NY food for Tads to study
28. Land on the Eugen Maersk, 2 successes, CPO and others secure the bird, then take to the Captain.
29. Captain Thomas, late 40s, ships whites, on the bridge - introductions.
30. Guessing you're armed - kept on the bird unless you want it. Pirates outside the law. Q2 - medically trained - point at Shimazu and Kai, mention tads magically capable. Arranges fire-fighting course. Crew of 18, flag of Denmark. Tads offers fresh food - seem interested.
31. Fire-fighting course, option to buy FF1.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 214 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
A fairly straight-forward week this time, no major plot elements, it was a “travelling” episode as they transited from the east coast of the US all the way to the northern end of the Suez canal.
I had the ships speed, and using my excel spreadsheet just put the numbers in to work out their rate of advance – at 15.8 knots, they would travel 700km per 24 hour period. Then back to the google maps, grab the ruler and draw a map to the straights of Gibraltar to get a distance of 5800km, and then divide one into the other to get 8.3 days of travel to hit the western edge of the med. Same thing again to work out another 5.1 days to get the remaining 3600km to Port Said.

In the deep Atlantic it was likely to be limited with the type of random encounters. I’d actually joked with the players at the end of the last session – “god help the bunch of pirates that attack the ship, not realising you’re on board”. Unless the pirates actually achieved complete tactical surprise, then the players would have at least a few minutes to get ready – and if they had that long, then the pirates were in trouble. Short of something kitted out as an actual warship – I couldn’t see any pirates standing up to an assault. Between Tads and 6 great form spirits and a higher force normal spirit providing multiple overlapping accident or confusion fields, some 26m radius stunballs and anything else she chose to use offensively, Marius with a Steel Lynx under direct rigger control on the deck, firing down from a heavy weapons platform, Aswon up on the bridge with a fifty cal sniper rifle taking headshots, Hunter on top of the containers with a panther cannon firing Super-frag rounds and Shimazu waiting patiently for anyone that might possibly make it through that slew of firepower to leap on them with a weapon foci – well, I didn’t rate the pirates as being a viable threat. Not for a straight up assault anyway.

Now, on one hand, it might have been fun to launch and attack – and it’s something I’ll keep in my back pocket for later. If I was going to do it, I’d try and stop the players doing any dice rolls – and pretty much run it as Shadowrun Anarchy. Let them tell me what they’re trying to do, and then weave a narrative around it. At this point we’ve got Grade 7 mages, everyone has double digit karma pools and they are pretty expert at their chosen areas. Being attacked by random minions they *should* wipe the floor with them. So I’d have no problem at all just avoiding the whole mess of combat and describing in technicolour detail just how thoroughly they kick the ever-living crap out of the opponents.
Then have them deal with what to do with the pirate boat, and make their lives complicated (or simple, if they scuttle the boat and carry on as if nothing has happened) with having to get rid of it, or take it over.

But, Instead I went for a different class of pirates on my random encounter list – sneaky buggers. I worked up a plan – a basic mage with a super-extended version of the mist spell, along with a bunch of armed pirates in an airship. Fog cloud rolls over the ship, visibility is 20m. It’s also got stealth cast on it, and a high signature – so probably doesn’t get picked up on radar. They quickly slice open the top containers, steal whatever they can fit and load into the airship, then float away…. Against most vessels, it should be reasonably successful, and give them a good haul of random gear.

Beyond that, it was the possibility of a bad storm, or some random critters that might possibly be big enough to have at the ship:

Random encounters:
1. Pirate airship - container theft from undercover of super-extended area mist spell
2. Bad weather, loss of containers / structural damage to ship
3. Kraken / Megladon / Giant Squid / Storm Dolphin pod (P99 PAOE)
4. Dolphin pod / Albatross

Large Zeppelin
H3, Speed 120, Accel 6, Body 9, Armour 4, Sig 3, Auto 2, Pilot 0, Sensor 1, Cargo 512, Load 5120 - 1TEU = 21,600kg
Caster with ex-ex-area mist F6 spell+sus foci, + stealth 6+sus foci. 8 pirates with low level cyber+ assault rifles
Megalodon - B15, Q5 (x4), S13, C0, I1/3, W3, E6, R5, Attack 10D, Enhanced Senses(Smell), Regeneration
Leviathan - B11, Q5 (x3), S10, C0, I2/4, W3 E6, R5, Init 5+1d6, Attacks 10D

With my table ready, we ran through the first day to find out what they wanted to do – and mostly they were happy to stay by themselves, doing training, maintenance, magical development and such like, meaning no real interaction with the crew or environment.

We only got two random encounters on the journey – the dolphin pod early on, and then the pirates later. When I rolled up for the pirates, I asked one of the players to give me a blind d6 roll on top. Normally I try and vary the results… sometimes a 1 is bad and a 6 is good, while 2-5 are neutral. Sometimes I split it odds and evens, sometimes in reverse order. Never let the player know if the number they rolled is good or bad, until it’s too late. Just ask them to confirm the number they rolled, and make the sucking sound between your teeth that if you’re a car owner just discussing damage with the mechanic means you know it’s going to be expensive, and then let the players have a bit of banter and moan at the person rolling while you prepare the encounter…

This time a 6 was a “positive” random encounter, and that’s what Hunter rolled – so the pirates hit a cargo ship other than theirs. Now it was up to the team to decide if they wanted to get involved or not. There was a bit of discussion around if they should get airborne and go to interfere, but the oddly sized spell really threw them off balance a bit, and made them wonder what they were facing – so in the end they stayed put. The pirates finished their operation and exited stage left, leaving them to examine the aftermath – and for me to add a pin on the map for a new pirate base on the north coast of former Libya.

Last of all they arrived at the waiting point and then headed off – and for some reason got it into their head that they were heading to Cairo, and there was 2 mins of discussion about how Marius was going to fly in a certain route to avoid trouble and drop him off…. Except of course they weren’t going to Cairo, it was to Alexandria. So, a change to the narrative, as Marius has photographic / exceptional memory, even if Lee doesn’t, and I don’t think they’d have spent the time discussing going to somewhere they didn’t want to go too…

And that means next week we’re splitting the party slightly while Shimazu goes to talk through his PTSD with his old professor, and the rest of the team head to Constantinople to meet Milo and get a new rating 5 ID for Kai.

I wonder if they’re going to send anyone with Shimazu, or let him be by himself, despite what Eirhan warned them????

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Thursday 28/10/2060, Location: 40.18079, -74.12168, Time 11:25
2. Fire course, 3 rooms, stay out of some areas. Orientation needed for cargo. Tads ask for that, offers warding - CPO not understand. Kai suggests spirit search for people smuggling/stowaway. Crew wear boiler suits or ships white.
3. Deck orientation for everyone. Cover the hazards. Test movement to the bird via different routes
4. Kai looks for the chef - mentions he has supplies on cold storage. No budget - it's free. Suspicious looks (goes to check out behind the scenes)
5. Tads sends out spirits to outside areas of cargo containers looking for stowaways, magical anomalies, magical creatures, warded areas and report back
6. Aswon works out a defence plan / SUT - checks with Maersk, works with Hunter - compares to corp version, 95% match
7. Generally staying out of the way, gym training, helping out with small tasks on the ship. Call Nadia to get lodge materials in.
8. Day 3 pod of dolphins following ship, go look - all normal, no paracritters. Tads stays to watch for a while. Tads talks about flying - Aswon volunteers, tads talks about Marius first and why. Tads explains about shapechange and learning skills, and practicing before needed. Marius and Aswon volunteer first, team get popcorn
9. Tads mentions again about Kai getting a new ID. Kai nods and does nothing. Marius does - asks for another R5
10. Marius on day 11 - spots fog on ship behind, 10nm behind, Tads 1 check on super-ex. Find OOD and ask them to radio through.
11. Kai asks if they can radio, OOD wants to know what is going on first. Kai - we can go deal, but that should be the last option. Tads - may be able to affect it.
12. Ship being affected - Ever Gentle, they report nothing on radar.
13. Tads tries to dispel - AWFUL roll, one success, fails, soak 6S - takes an M. No military vessels about on radar.
14. Kai asks for permission to go help - Captain says if they take off, don't come back - too obvious.
15. Mist stays for about 30 mins, then rolls off to the south.
16. Crew spots debris on the front of Ever Gentle, EG reports everything is fine. Tads - that sounds wrong. Asks Shimazu - he thinks it sounds dodgy. Kai asks captain if he's got "under duress" codes, can he call EG - no. no idea where to call. Kai tries his shipping contact, no answer. Get hunter to look - get EG contact info.
17. Tads thinks, goes for a scout. Bridge stresses, engines fine, bow stressed +working, manifests. 3 containers holed and cargo stolen.
18. Kai calls in basic encounter report to EG security - stops when Tads gets back.
19. Check map - heading for Bin Jawad. Tads gets spell signature
20. 10th Nov, arrive N of Port Said, Anchor, transit is at 04:30
21. Discussion about where to go - possibly Cairo to get Shimazu sorted with his prof. 1-2 weeks, not forthcoming about why
22. Tads tries to offer food again - chef suspicious, no thanks
23. Kai tries his contact again, still no answer (changed number)
24. Plan to go south to Cairo and drop Shimazu off.
25. Just as they're getting airborne, Shimazu redirects to Alexandria - as that's where the university is....

Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 215 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
First of all, a bit of a late post – sorry. Nothing particular going on this weekend, but I had just such a hard time getting the enthusiasm to write. I’ve found that there are some times when I’m just not feeling the creative itch, and that trying to force it doesn’t work – it’s best to walk away from the keyboard, do something else instead and try again later. It was a bit of a hectic work week (Exchange server and Active Directory issues), so I think I just needed to unwind a little. A good game of FTL Multiverse, some Youtube and walks with the dog, and we finally got there after work tonight.
With that being said, we’re finally done, and another chapter is in the bank. Not a huge amount of action – Shimazu getting treated for his PTSD, and the rest of the team heading to Constantinople. I had some changes to show them in the city, as we spent 8 weeks there a little while back, and I wanted to show them that time had not stood still while they had been away.
Otherwise, it was a brief stop to pick up the ID which went smooth as silk, then a brief dangle of a simple delivery job to give them something to do – which again should be a nice simple job. Low pay, low risk – just doing a favour for Marius’s mate to help him out, then they can head on back to the Ranch to go and see a now very obviously pregnant Nadia.
All the players know of course, but are maintaining their IC ignorance – while gleefully informing Marius’ player about how much stick he’s going to get for keeping the secret.
The only other fly in the ointment really was the message from Aden – first he had one of his drakes try to magically track Aswon again, but this was defeated by him hopping behind the Force 10 ward in the tilt-wing! So, they moved on to more mundane methods, with their hackers targeting Kai’s phone to send a message.
None of the players have worked out what the device is for yet (unsurprisingly, as they have no context really) – but they’re now starting to look for some metals with ludicrously high melting points and someone to work them, for a mysterious purpose! It’s actually going to be for the “special” item for Hunter, a little way down the line.
Anyway, it’s late on Monday night, and I need to get some prep time in for tomorrow’s game – so time to post!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 10/11/2060, Location: 31.54501, 32.32031, Time 18:45
2. Drop Shimazu off in the fields south of the city with 8k on a credstick
3. Shimazu - PTSD treatment. Dr Wael 4 successes on psychology, take 3 days for "treatment"
4. Call Navayia - code word? Kai asks Marius... Minos-Papprika-229-Vaggelis-Chatzis. Arrange to arrive in a few hours, no more transmissions needed. "Need to work on their customer service".
5. Kai tries to get hold of his shipping contact again - rings, no answer. Messages him details of the freighter raid
6. Arrive at the island at 9pm, one speed boat in dock , get fuel for 7.3k
7. discuss where to land in Const, Hunter checks - international airport, old air, or domestic to the east
8. Hunters suggests just getting the stick freighted back to them. Team still want to go
9. Aswon calls Sofi - what! Sounds like a riot - Aswon circumspect, call you back later.
10. Discuss water or direct route from Navaiya to Constantinople
11. Direct route, legit flight plan. Hunter gets in touch with freight airport and makes contact
12. Pasha gets in touch, code and then offers to buys/sell/arrange access. Pasha has goods... 1.5k / day
13. Sloppy ATV, but at least lit and controlled. Land and meet Pasha. Pay for 2 nights. +4.5k fuel
14. Back to Shimazu, walk into Alexandria, find a 4* hotel, check in late night. ID check, ask him if he wants to put the sword in secure storage - no, keep on person, uncomfortable but ok, please keep concealed.
15. Nice room, Shimazu settles in and relaxes. Orders the most expensive items from room service, then when it arrives, sends Kai a picture without comment. Kai twitches... Shimazu leaves tv on and all lights, but without press of bodies and has some "alone" time.
16. Pasha gets a minivan for 500 per day, Kai gets for 2 days.
17. Tads Aswon and Kai, checking for magic perception if appropriate - get a tickle, try and assense - feel familiar, Aswon texts Shimazu to warn him. Sense of familiarity but not enough successes. Stops ritual tracking
18. Team stay in tilt-wing apart from Aswon who is teasing.
19. Kai phone rings at 2am, says "Boss". Hello Nadia? What?? Sorry, my mistake. Who is this? Represent our mutual employer. Narrow it down. You refuelled at his Vinyard. Kai poked Marius to find out who that was. Right how is he? You need to get a thing - gives details, deliver it to where you last met him, unspecified time. And the cost for this will be paid by? You. Gets details of the jewellery item sent through. Then hangs up, leaves Kai mid sentence.
20. Team have a think about metals - rolling engineering, chemistry, metallurgy:
21. Commercial rhenium is generally powdered and can be pressed or sintered into a high-density solid in vacuum or hydrogen, with a density of more than 90% of the metal state.
22. Rhenium metals are highly ductile when annealed and can be bent and rolled up. Rhenium blocks are resistant to alkali, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, dilute nitric acid (non-concentrated nitric acid) and aqua regia at standard temperature and pressure.
23. The global annual production of rhenium ranges from 40 to 50 tonnes, mainly in Chile, the USA, Peru, and Poland. About 70% of the world’s rhenium is used to make superalloy parts for jet engines. Another major use of rhenium is in platinum-rhenium catalysts, which can be used to produce lead-free, high-octane gasoline.
24. Tantalum can be drawn into thin foil due to its moderate hardness and ductility. Tantalum has a very small coefficient of thermal expansion. Tantalum has excellent chemical properties and is highly resistant to corrosion. It does not react to hydrochloric acid, concentrated nitric acid and “aqua regia” under both cold and hot conditions. Tantalum can be used to make evaporating vessels, as well as electrodes, rectifiers, and electrolytic capacitors for electron tubes. Tantalum is used medically to make thin slices or threads to repair damaged tissue.
25. Tantalum is made into capacitors for use in military equipment. Half of the world’s tantalum output is used to make tantalum capacitors. America’s defense logistics agency, the biggest owner of the metal, once bought out a third of the world’s tantalum powder.
26. Cost for both is about £3k/kg - team look at it, maybe think it's a containment vessel, but it's going to be very strong and tough.
27. In the morning - Aswon Text Shimazu in the morning "Next job lined up. No time frame, non-optional 😦 Not Kai's fault!! Will keep you posted. Need us, just call."
28. Shimazu in the morning, off to the university. Put Shimazu in trance, tell the story - hard to believe. Work all day with him, cancels lectures, takes him out to a restaurant in the evening - Shimazu's treat. smile.gif
29. Aswon and Tads stay, Hunter stays too. Kai and Marius go to Milo, get ID for Natjav Dariimaa - Olympic archer.
30. 10:30, finish getting ID. Marius calls Andre Koompli, happy to see Marius. You remember Kai - yes, got some stuff to sell, good to pop round? Yes, but it's a mare parking because of the troubles - gives new address.
31. Details of traffic, 90 mins to reach Andre, sellers in the streets working the traffic. Get to Andre, park, into the house, antiques roll for Kai - lots of partials and broken bits of nice stuff. Go to sell the shares... random rolls.... 3
32. bog roll joke - smirk, says they're worth about 5-6k. Kai asks what the fee is- says nothing, friend of Marius. Kai - nudges Marius to offer courier work.
33. Marius - heading back to Azerbaijan, want anything taking. Going east? Over the other side of the straights? Where to - a warehouse, we're in a tilt wing - discussion about space, parks - pretty easy to spot - we have a mage. 500l of alcohol - warns about the local thoughts on this. Marius agrees to job. Andre says he will top up the value on the shares. Kai asks about the state of the city. Andre gives details and story - Kai asks if there's an end in site or if it's just going to keep getting worse - probably.
34. Marius heads back, takes the rest of the day, to get back to airport.
35. Shimazu planning on staying for the rest of the week. 2-3 hours per day, gets a private area to train in. Working on distance strike - tells the prof, asks for help, get s magic prof to come in and discuss theory.
36. Constantinople
37. Muslim/Christian violence has flared in the city in the 8 months since they were last there. Lionheart security are under great pressure, and Sofi is working but struggling to keep the peace in his sector. Many of his troops are becoming more brutal and quick to respond under the near constant assaults they face, and the niggling sabotage
38. The northern bridge was bombed again, sending the western span down into the straights, causing a hazard for shipping and traffic mayhem. A few car ferries have sprung into action and are making a mint, but the traffic is now of legendary proportions
39. The team can land and base at the freight airport - and paperwork is "negotiable" if they offer the right money - 1500 per day landing fee, and fuel is at monopoly+30% (15,210 Nuyen for direct flight)
40. 1300km from Eugene Maersk to drop off Shimazu and straight line to Constantinople
41. 983 to get to Navayia smuggler stop (7372.5 Nuyen for fuel)
42. See the Half-Pint crew doing a pickup
43. Mafia is fighting for control on the NE bank, in the graveyard area, against a push by the Muslim community
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 216 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
The night would start with the team at the airport apart from Shimazu. Kai and Marius have just got back with the new ID and the job from Andre. They need to collect 400l (1 pallet, 8 CF) of booze from the warehouse out the back of the Pilihoz Grand House, on the west short, and drop it off to a warehouse deep in the eastern part of the city, the area with strong Muslim control.

At the start of the night, I sent Lee / Marius a private message with the code phrases and instructions for him to have access to:
Collection address - warehouse out the back of the Pilihoz Grand House, north shore, - ID code phrases.
ID yourself with "Achtung, I do not like to be kept waiting!". Your contact will respond with "Herr Schmidt?". Confirm with "Nein. Herr Doktor Schidt!"
Package is a number of cases of very expensive booze, packed onto a pallet and shrink wrapped in place. Quite delicate, so please handle with care.
Delivery to Bahar Kofte & Sucuk, rear loading dock, 15km away. Contact is Neehar.
ID with "We're going for dinner - lamb or chicken?". He will respond with "Neither, I prefer beef"
Payment will be handled between us directly - just drop the package at the loading dock and let him get it under-cover ASAP.

I was planning on making the job really quite simple and straightforward – no double crosses or any shenanigans, with only a slight twist at the drop off, that I had no doubt they would breeze through.
After that, they’d get to leave the city and make their flight east, maybe spot the truck stop on the highway where their truck got mistaken for another courier (back in episode 64) and they had trouble. After that they crossed near the monastery that they marked on the map as it had a mana spike (all normal now, but just to remind them), otherwise a mostly uneventful journey back to the ranch – until they reach the contested area near Kurdistan. One large area of the mountains stripped of all plant life by chemical warheads used by the Turkish, some towns almost burnt out in response.

This sets the scene for a job in the future, where Aden will be asking them to directly attack and sabotage some of the Turkish guns used to perform this artillery attack – where I plan to have some very hard moral choices to make or risk the wroth of a great dragon. But that’s for a way down the line yet!
Once past that little Chekov’s smoking valley, they get back to the ranch ok for an emotional reunion between Nadia and Marius, and the rest of the team finding out the deal.

At the ranch, Nadia is now very obviously pregnant - she's 8 months gone and feeling a little hormonal and put upon to say the least. She last saw Marius in ep 142 (31st August 2060) so they've been apart for 72 days
With the team now “IC” aware of the baby, that triggers planning for some downtime to get training in, have a chill, do some planning, make contacts and learn some spells. The team don’t have a huge amount of karma, but they can at least do a lot of the training hours needed for upgrading skills or attributes when they do.

Things Nadia has done / arranged.
Activity stuff
The shooting range is set out for short and long distance work, and there are animal silhouettes for archery. There is a laser-tag arena set up on the front land, with lots of barriers and obstacles set up to make an arena with loads of cover. Most of it though is set to collapse / drop into the ground when an alarm is triggered.
Covered Dutch barn style car parks gravelled for visitors, high enough for articulated trucks, RVs or camper vans
Magic stuff
1) She has laid out a spa ground - there is a space for the swimming pool (she is waiting for Tads to dig the hole) and she has the pump/filter equipment already standing by.
2) Massive firepit laid out with concentric concrete circles, sunk into the ground and with a wind break all around
3) A site for the massive earth sculpture, to put the earth from the pool hole, to make a singing forest (harmonics and holes)
4) A high clay Pidgeon tower, with room for a clay shooter - or a summoner.
Nadia has read up on magic, but her translation was a tiny bit off, and she has worked out a bunch of stuff for a hermetic instead of a shaman...

I wanted to add this in to give Nadia a bit of development, and to try and ground the context of some of the things the team (and players) take for granted. Nadia is *very* proactive, intelligent and resourceful, and is generally a good asset for the team. Originally she was designed as a “drop in” character – with useful skills and attributes so that if any one of the PCs got taken out, we could drop in Nadia as a temp character to give the player something to do, while they worked on their new character and we got to a suitable place to introduce them. Then things developed, and we ended up in the current situation.
I’ve generally tried to play Nadia like a team member you really want to have on your team – she’s bright and enthusiastic, has good ideas and is not afraid to take the initiative. A good few times she’s done things that *I’ve * thought I’d do as a PC in her place to move things along, and they have always been a bonus for the team. But – she’s not a Mary Sue. She’s a woman bought up in a very patriarchal society by a horribly misogynistic generation, and has led a fairly sheltered life. She’s not magically active, and with very limited exposure to material and coming from a fairly repressive society, she’s bound to make mistakes and get things wrong – especially on something as weird and arcane as magic.

So I thought, why not have her do a really good thing, and make a fantastically useful resource – if only the team had a hermetic instead of a shaman. Perhaps a really small change in inflexion on a word on a translation from some text, that comes across as witch instead of warlock or something small like that – that would lead to heading down completely the wrong path. And of course, that gave me an opportunity for her to have a wobbly moment when it got pointed out that she’d dropped a clanger.
As it turns out, the team WERE very supportive of her, and tried to let her down gently and in the most constructive way – so I’ll not even get to have Nadia be that mad.

She’s got to save up some rage for during labour pains to direct at Marius after all… 😊

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
• Thursday 11/11/2060, Location: 40.97811, 28.82424, Time 19:00
• Look at locations, Kai asks Aswon to call Sofi. Just about to call - tads has an idea
• Tads thinks about hiding in the van - common sense, talk to Marius - checking all vehicles. Van would be laden down and make them look like dodgy smugglers.
• Tads does a summon with some mana smoothing.
• Kai suggests lionheart colours, Aswon - no, Maybe UPS
• Call to Sofi, he picks up - oh shit, sorry, tired. Anywhere we should avoid - yeah the east side. Oh shit... Sofi apologies, flying commercial is fine, just don't fly low in a balloon where they can throw rocks at you.
• Marius wants to just crack on and get it sorted. Kai agrees.
• Tads suggests using red crescent paint scheme to avoid trouble on the east side. Hunter finds the paint scheme and loads it in to the bird
• Spot the bridge traffic and security check points
• Get up to the warehouse, spot the restaurant ok, land ok. Warehouse doors ajar, dark inside. Team prepare to go out, Marius - I have to go, code phrases. drop back doors.
• Nobody comes out, Marius approaches the door. Two or three flashes
• Blindfold - sorry to keep you waiting. Orange pallet lifter, booze in pallet wrap. Hunter grabs. Guy standing, trembling. Hunter thinks about shouting boo, but the team don't and leave. Hunter taps him on the shoulder as he returns the lifter. Start up and lift off, strap the cargo down carefully.
• Over the water, down the highway, bad traffic, mobs of locals with sticks, mob mentality.
• Spot the loading dock, one person smoking a cigarette, plenty of room. He spots something, stands up and comes out
• Code check. Do you have a pallet truck? No, FLT inside. get 4 on the corners to carry it down the ramp - Marius, all yours once it's hit the ramp. They agree to get it to the dock.
• Listen check, mob coming - lots of heads up. 15 seconds. Tads does illusion of empty car park, some smoothing. 8 successes.
• Guy runs around corner, runs across "empty space" will hit tilt wing in a few seconds. Kai sends his spirit to go behind the mob and distract them. They can all hear when that happens - crowd goes mental
• Kai - hands on head, don't move, close your eyes, it'll be alright. Says in English, Hunter gives a Turkish translation for Kai to repeat.
• Brain fart for a moment, then puts hands over eyes. Kai calls hunter to come over and translate. Aswon suggest get the pallet in first.
• Hunter - do you speak English, word by word - "yes, slowly, a little". Pallet moves. Name - Tomar. Why they chasing you - listening to music. Where do you live - babble. How far - ten minutes run. Pallet is in, guy ushers them away, you should go. Kai leads the guy over to the far side, he's very hesitant. Wait 5 minutes, then it's safe to go. Tads detaches a spirit to conceal him until / unless he engages in violence. Tads cleanses sig, monster roll.
• Up and out of the city, heading east. Change PVPs to a non-descript plain scheme
• 1675km back to the ranch. Past the monastery. 40mins more, sudden massive BGC4 area. Demo check - agent orange, defoliant. Aswon asks Hunter to check the news, advises to gain altitude. Sensor check on pullup. Marius gets good hits. Spots burnt out towns, one at least from today. Turkish propaganda, PKK fighting back - napalm, but checking houses first.
• About midnight, back at the ranch. Radio ahead. Naena picks up. You're back - you want the lights on? Gets closer, IR spotlights on the Hpad. Asks Naena to get Nadia. Land ok, see the welcome party - Nadia waddling. "This is the reason I wanted to get home". Aswon "DO NOT say that out loud once this door is open" Kai does mental maths - does seem to be possible to be Marius's
• Power down, let Marius out first. Bear hug, then a face slap - Marius sees it coming, takes it on the cheek. 72 DAYS! rubs his cheek, Kai - comms off, "that's not my fault".
• Hunter "something to tell me sis?" Rubbing belly, seems happy. just takes it. Kai gives sincere and quiet congratulations. Aswon - Nadia are you well? Yes, just lonely. Get some food and drink on the go, carry in dirty washing. Take photo of team with Nadia, send to Shimazu - did you know about this?
• Ask about what's been going on - but then say food first, stories tomorrow. Only one needs therapy and he's off - double take. ASk about Germaine. Formidable woman, but she enjoyed her holiday. She says better horse. Family look sad. Aswon - I will try to help, do you have a source for horses. I can help.
• Aswon arranging with Hunter - if he's going camping, RZ spots to do astral checks at a regular basis. Bed for all, good nights sleep for all but Marius - 72 days of witter, baby kicking.
• Friday 12th, morning.
• Aswon - do we need to start getting the unobtanium? And we also need to get some time for Tads to go see Aslick. Kai - what about the tracking - think it was Aden, can we check, do tingle checks. Tads - don't forget Hunter, Marius, me and the Tilt-wing also have extra protections. So it's mainly Aswon / Shimazu that is more vulnerable. Check in with Shimazu.
• Spot the paintball arena, Vardo explains. Aswon SUT - massive cover bonus for approaching the house.
• Kai checks with family about local area - back under police control. Nadia spending money, getting local labourers.
• Nadia shows up - fish on toast. Points to the paintball arena "what do you think?" mention cover. Sends Vardo for guns, asks Hunter and Aswon to sneak up. They both go out and stealth hard, it's a very well laid out arena, -must be a commercial plan as the sight lines are too carefully planned out. Explains about arena, commercial design.
• Covers the car park, then goes onto the witchy things.
• Tads - great - explains about safety bunker plans. Nadia demos the stuff - realise it's hermetic 101.
• Aswon - good news and bad news. Good for some guests. high value - usp. But I'll let tads explain...
• Tads - do you remember when we had a talk about different styles of magic?
• Hunter spots, puts in the accent. Corrects the translation. Aswon tries to stay positive. Nadia has a cry, flounces back to the house and goes to cry on Marius's shoulder
• Aswon checks out the area, good for F6-8 summoning, actually very good.
• Stop for the night.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 217 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Well, it’s finally time for the baby! With the team back safely to the ranch, we did “training montage” for a month and went into the birth, and following the poll done quite some time ago, Nadia was blessed with a very straightforward birth, leaving mother and baby in fine health with no complications at all, and everyone gets to play happy families. We could then moved on to a 2nd month, where they get some quality time together and the rest of the team continue training. Shimazu was looking for a way to ‘live a magical lifestyle’ so set up his little dojo and started teaching, while Tads managed to get a month in and get some Orichalcum made.
They’ve also got the strange device made for Aden, and still have no idea what it’s for – but that’s another little objective done, and with Germaine having her coat delivered, they’ve pretty much cleared their quest log and have no outstanding contracts or things to do, giving them a psychological breathing space.
Next up is some talismongering – either in the local area, or way down in Asia. I’m not sure which they’re going to go for, so I’m probably going to have to prepare both, just in case, which means coming up with some new smuggler stops on the way to give them some bases to go through and some new characters to interact with. Time to get the creative hat on and try to come up with some unsavoury types and interesting places to explore!
I’m going to give them a couple of weeks I think where they can self-task and do stuff as they choose, before starting to ramp things up again. First will be a message from Aden, sending them to go help the PKK out and deal with the Turkish army who are using the bio-chemical attacks on the rebel held hills and destroying all the life there (which the team should be all for in terms of the impact on the ecology – what they’re almost certainly going to baulk at is Aden wanting them to direct their attacks against Government held areas, particularly those with a heavy SK presence). Next up will be the summons to Eindhoven in the Netherlands to get the cyberware installed for Marius and start his ‘campaign special’ upgrade, and by the time we’re there it’s going to be time to start really ramping up for the probe race and getting ready for SURGE.
I’m unsure at this point whether to just roll for SURGE as per the main rules, and accept that we’re pretty much certain not to see any affects at all on the team – either because they’re cybered and have low essence, or because they have high magic ratings – or whether to spice things up and dish out a few cosmetic changes and maybe something more serious to make life interesting for them, without inflicting something so horrible it derails the character from the campaign.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Friday 12/11/2060, Location: 40.02426, 48.95799, Time 12:00
2. General R&R, training time, looking for metals.
3. Rhenium + Tantalum, 14k delivered. Aswon wants details to give to Kai to work out a manufacturer. Dealers are in the UCAS. Kai negotiation test - 5 successes. Schematics upload to Boston Metal Fabricators inc, total to 20k. Accepted
4. Kai goes to find the cops - 1st one has left the force (gone to Baku, private security force), 2nd on the straight and narrow and trying hard. Kai asks if there's any trouble, goes to speak, then changes his mind and says it's all fine.
5. Shimazu back late sunday, team go to collect him (Kai+Aswon)
6. Go to deliver the coat to Germaine, call her, go to voicemail, let her know they have the coat.
7. Monday, Germaine calls, Kai, is that you, got my coat. Got a job for you. Kai stalls. Germaine coming for lunch. Aswon puts on the dark blue tie. G turns up in the Rolls Royce with her bodyguard. Forceful and loud greetings, notices Nadia, who's responsible, team ids Marius. Can't possibly ask you to go now, not in her condition. I wanted a picture getting from Qatar. Switches off work mode, refuses to discuss it any further. G talks to Aswon re horses, has some contacts in Saudi, also suggests northern Sudan for desert racers, maybe lesser bloodlines or an ex racer or retired courser. Maybe get a job that that will pay in horse stock or foals. Germaine says she will get in touch with details, in a month or two. Get the coat, not her style - technical truths "it's a magnificent coat". Then go out clay shooting. Aswon shoots with Germaine. Hour later, she heads off back to Baku. Kai hands the receipt for the coat to the bodyguard to pass on to the "admin person to be dealt with"
8. Shimazu - set up local school for sword training / shinto / local youth club. Kai and Hunter join for edged training.
9. Doctor Kai checks Nadia - all extremely happy and well. Nadia happy for Kai to help with the delivery - but no photos.
10. Nadia going with a handfasting style ritual with the team to witness, Marius happy with that.
11. Birth day, 12/12/2060 - it's a boy, smooth delivery, spirits on guard, all easy with no complications. Marius goes with German tradition for first born male tradition named after father. Marius Tural - add her fathers name just in case theirs a meeting later.
12. Nadia asks Hunter to be god-parent. She's pretty confident that she has it right. Hunter asks for the link. Explains the 2 reasons for this.
13. Tads has bought radicals from Aslick (4k), then goes to make Orichalcum.
14. Aswon suggests chasing down Aden soon as Tads is done, being proactive. Kai agrees sooner is better than later.
15. Kai wants to spend a lot of his time looking for routes to the south from Nepal towards UAE for instance. Naga bits - aswon not happy. Lots of jungles, remote hidden bases.unstable governments.
16. Marius tells them he remembers the Kabul Mafia being mentioned by the guy in tashkent. Marius favours a trip to SE asia to go critter/talismonger hunting.
17. Aswon firm on not hunting sentient creatures like Naga. Self defence is ok, but not actively planning to do it.
18. Tads suggest stay more local and use Aslick, spend less on fuel and stay closer to the ranch.
Kren Cooper
No game update this week unfortunately - had 3 players down with various illness / work things. Hopefully back next week.
Kren Cooper
Alas, it was not to be - major discord outage tonight for a few hours, that unfortunately coincided with our gaming session. Meh. Damm nano-second buyouts crashing the matrix!
So - we'll try again on the 15th - then there's definitely going to be a 2 week break while Ali/Tads and I go on holiday to the Netherlands for our annual World of Warcraft Guildmeet.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 218 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
  • First of all – just to let you know that Ali (Tads) and I are off on holiday from next Tuesday so there will be a two week pause in the game while we go to our World of Warcraft guildmeet in the Netherlands.
  • So – what’s going on? Well, having had the baby delivered successfully, and having a little bit of downtime to rest and recuperate, it’s time to let them get back on the road again – so I gave them a little plot nudge in the form of Ares letting Marius know his cyberware was ready. The team have thankfully learnt just how expensive their vehicle can be to operate, so the first thing they did was work out the distance to Eindhoven and a rough cost for the fuel. That then led to a long rambling discussion about options to travel commercially, who was going, how much they trusted Ares (not at all), how good their fake SINS were, the number of borders they needed to cross and so on. After we’d gone round the houses for half an hour they then started to reach out to contacts to try and get some work.
  • That let me drop in a number of opportunities – finding the Imperial Eagle (straight out of Paranormal Animals of Europe), which could be combined with some talismongering, the Gun theft job (a straight up assault on a Russian military officers residence, defeating his guards and security – there will probably be some other loot here, but also a response from the naval base nearby to add a time element to the job), and last of all the WarBears job – these are custom critters to keep Marius/Aswon on their toes and give them something “unknown”
  • As they get going on this, I’m going to throw a spanner in the works and have Germaine contact them, asking if they’re back in action yet – as the team she hired to do the art job down in Qatar have betrayed her and run off with her loot. If the players try to slot this in, then eventually they’ll find out this is the same bunch of shitbags they ran into at the Tehran marketplace and took a dislike to – so potentially some karmic payback and a chance to steal and sell their vehicle.
  • Once they have reached Eindhoven, they will go to the Delta Clinic hidden there (and in a much more professional fashion than previously!) and get the new nano/cyberware added, then get to discover what that is!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Tuesday 1/2/2061, Location: 40.02426, 48.95799, Time 10:00
2. Aslik response to Tads - not high enough for her needs, slow to punt it out to someone
3. Check Popov, can do, will take 3 days of time for 6k cost, actualy takes just over 30 days, come through a bit tattered, Tads gets Hunter to release the hermetic version.
4. Contact from Ares via email - travel at your convenience to Eindhoven airport, run by Ares, with 3+ days notice, for implant of the ware.
5. Marius informs team - choice, travel as a civy on his own via commercial, or go as a team off the books.
6. Aswon - don't want you going alone, not into Ares clutches. Kai - what are they implanting anyway? Marius - dunno. Experimental stuff. Kai - who has contacts. They check - not much, Marius is closest with Alison in Hamburg
7. Kai - check smuggler routes - jump off point to the uk for stuff, some people smuggling, not want the team wants. Netherlands somewhat liberal, low general demands.
8. Kai checks border procedures and calls his contacts, Praneeth - travel in from a neighbouring EU country, lots of migration.
9. Aswon - a little wary about being on something like a train, closed box environment, airport style check-ins, no gear.
10. Journey is 3500km, 2 tanks each way, about 30k in fuel cash.
11. Tads suggest taking the truck instead of flying, slower, but cheaper and multiple drivers. Discuss around this. Maybe take Nadia and Marius Jr. Marius back to Orient Express idea. Maybe they go on the train, rest go by truck. Hunter checks - air travel from Baku>Tblisi, then Tbilisi to Schiphol. Train routes through turkey is dodgy, but doable.
12. Road trip for 3500km journey would be 8k in fuel, flying would be about 35k. Tads suggest driving shifts if possible, could get up to 24 hours driving done between the three drivers.
13. Team thinking about travelling via truck, working on route and border crossings. Tads suggests getting Nadia to think about logistics if possible. Aswon suggests looking for jobs and letting that guide truck/plane. Kai - think about getting in touch with Ludmilla / Germaine, for outbound, or Europe based stuff to take stuff up.
14. Looking at routes - via Turkey and up, or up to Russian and over - Aswon concerned about links to the Brigadier.
15. Kai checking exotics dealer to take stuff over - Ganesh knows that Paris zoo is looking for an imperial eagle, and is willing to pay up to 15k for a good specimen. Para critter rolls, TCMountains possible ranges, near where they first met. Aswon thought - while looking for Eagles, possibly other materials to grab. Work out that the Eagles don't like poisoners / trappers. Aswon concerned about level of sentience.
16. Marius checks with contacts - Halys has a job - Sevastopol, 1911 - 30k for recovery. Georgi wants some materials from Poland - War bear claws. Offering up to 43k Aswon "sounds like Juggernauts with fur" Shimazu thinks he could have it with his sword, with support from the rest of the team, based on fighting critters previously. Good critter rolls, nasty bears with possibly hardened armour, deep forests, solitary.
17. Marius provides a bit more info to Halys, asks about competence, firepower. Tells them item will fit in a briefcase, 1-2m timescales. Local security goons and passive security. Team get more info, Aswon wants more pay. Average etiquette check from Marius - didn't want to up price but can offer help with info on the location.
18. Vasilly Igorovich, ex Admiral of the Red Fleet, large detached property in extensive grounds.
19. Take the gun job - team waiting on dossier, burner number
20. Aswon suggests doing Sevastopol first, then hitting the mountains to disappear for a week, find the eagle, talismonger, then up to drop off at Paris, then Eindhoven, back to Poland, then home.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 219 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Hi folks – back from holiday (great, until one of the people that was there only for the middle section reported in that he’d tested positive for Covid – which prompted us all to test, and discover about 90% positive rate, put a bit of a downer on the end of the meet. On the plus side, everyone felt ok generally – it was only when people got home that they started to feel “ropey” to say the least, and for most people it seems to be a cough/cold, rather than full on Covid symptoms – so it could have been worse), and back in the saddle.
It was a little slow this week, probably due to the break and people wanting to get back up to speed, so there was a fair amount of discussion and going over details. One of the things I dropped at the start of the session was the “dossier” to give them some information and to allow them to prepare some plans:
Briefing document from Halys
• Admiral Nikolay Semenovich Mordvinov, flagship "Moskva" a Slava II guided missile cruiser, lead of the 30th Surface Ship division, accompanied by 4 X Guided Missile Frigates.
• Also based at Sevastopol is the 4th Submarine Brigade and the 197th Assault Ship Brigade, 68th Coastal Défense Ship Brigade and 102nd Anti-Saboteur Squadron - you are advised to stay out of the military harbour entirely if possible, and probably steer clear of the harbour area in general due to the military presence.
• Sevastopol is under military curfew due to the actions of Crimean nationalists and guerilla action - expect military checkpoints and random street stops for anyone who's ID is not beaconing. But, there's no general issue with foreigners - enough of the mega-corps have facilities here or pipelines that it's not generally a problem.
• Admiral Mordvinov's dacha is set in an 18 hectare compound on the north side of the harbour, about a kilometre inland. He lives in an old converted Orthodox church, with a small villa off to the side for the staff and several of his captains (those currently in his favour). The compound is surrounded by a 3m high block wall, topped with broken glass set into the upper surface. The main entrance is to the south-east and there is a small guard shack / gatehouse there, manned 24/7. There are frequent patrols around the perimeter by pairs of naval ratings armed with automatic weapons, some with dogs (trained but mundane). Magical defences are unknown, but expect residences to be warded at the least, with possibly a bound spirit given the senior ranks.
• With the naval base only just over a klick away, noisy entry will likely lead to an armed response in <2 minutes from the ready response force, and serious reinforcements will likely arrive in <10 from an alarm, consisting of shipboard marines, scout helicopters and fast-response hovercraft.
• The barracks opposite the main gate holds lesser ranked officers and some NCOs, so it's likely they will be alert and proficient with any martial response, though not heavily armed.
• The package is likely to be found in the main chamber, located in a display of other rare / unusual arms and armour - expect motion sensors, pressure pads, high-rating ID scanners and thermal monitoring systems. There's also indications that there may be a small team (1-3) of Naval Marines located inside the main residence as a bodyguard, following previous assassination attempts.;4d33.5253671
I’d scouted around the Real Life area, and noted the unusual looking church, set in a compound with some natural cover – and this looks ideal to have a bit of privacy for a VIP, and to get them out of the city somewhat, while still being close enough to interact if they wish to.
From there it was making up some details to try and set the scene and advise the players on what they were dealing with. Off I went to Wikipedia, my ever reliable source for inspiration and details, and a quick search on the Russian fleet and especially the Black Sea fleet gave me some names, ship classes, fleets and other details. Including “brigades” and “squadrons” should indicate to the players that there is a serious military presence here, and that stealth was the order of the day. If they try and fight this lot, the initial combat will probably go their way as they deal with isolated individuals or single targets – but as soon the Russians get organised, they’ll be overwhelmed in short order.
Then it was a list of the types of security to let them know that it was at a reasonable technological level, with multiple systems to deal with, but downplaying the magic somewhat (because the Johnson didn’t have any info on it) – fortunately the players are suspicious as a default and did some scouting, discovering the reasonable ward and aspected background count, and what that would mean for them in terms of magical assault. So far they haven’t discovered the details of the spirit lurking inside – but they at least suspect there is one.
Inside the church is a wall of loot, all in display cases, of various old firearms. In addition to the 1911, I’ve put in 7 more guns with various values to “tempt” the team, and see how greedy they want to get:
1. Colt 1911 #1
2. LeMat 8 shot revolver with single 20 gauge shotgun chamber - 20k
3. Winchester 73 lever action - 50k
4. M1 Garand, all original parts, low serial number - 10K
5. Luger 9mm - 25k
6. MG42 (Code cra) MAGET Machine Gun & Anti Aircraft Mount - 80K
7. World War II Savage M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun - 85K
8. German Krieghoff FG-42, Type 2 - 300k
All of these came from so I’ve also got somewhere to get some nice pictures from when they actually get inside.
Hopefully next week, it’ll be a smooth crossing to Crimea, find somewhere quiet to set down, and they can start digging their tunnel – that Force 7 shape earth spell is really paying back the cost for the formula!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Briefing arrived, team discussing low alarm times and stealth approach.
2. Check age of church, possible escape tunnels if very early - find it's early 19th Century. Possibly go in through the roof (Marius/Hunter). Looking for blueprints - can't find any, but can find shots from the harbour showing general layout. Checking for bell tower, trying to find public appearances of admiral - nothing. Hunter wonders about Parachute in, winding up the team, talking about HALO.
3. Rusudan interrupts talking, apologies, puts on Trid-report - shelling in eastern turkey, more reports of chemical / biological attacks on mountain areas. Blurry explosions, jets in the distance. Turkish voice telling camera crew to stop filming or else.
4. Kai - options, smash and grab, kidnaps, magic shenanigans like making it invisible, grabbing from unusual angle. Tads - use of magic may be affected by hearth spirit / wards. Offers astral scout. Hunter - before you go - any indications of magic use.
5. Team think about stuff based on experience with brigadier and previous magic use - unlikely to be active mages, more likely to be passive stuff like wards, guardian vines.
6. Aswon thinking if Tads can get a layout then new options opened up - though he's likely to be offensive rather than retreating. One nerve gas canister away from gassing them out if Tads can hide / invisible the object. Tads suggest blagging in as military investigators. Aswon concerned about the rest of the team having mug shots on record and being spotted, vehicle already tagged.
7. Kai plan - get in, look like the admiral, impersonate him and lead all the defenders out and away, leaving the building unguarded, rest of team swooped in. Tads - curious if Russian was good enough - try to do it with silent signals.
8. Tads astral scout, find patrollers, ward, area+BGC info
9. Hunter suggests Shimazu going in. Marius and Aswon don't like as that will definitely lead to deaths. Tads reports. Hunter now curious about sensors out in the woods. Tads goes back, spots sensors on the walls, but not inside, F3-4 ward on the 2nd building. Ask tads about stealth/silence spell. Low stealth, so would need spirit. Ask about temp - yes, got that covered. talk about spirit concealment, stealth, temp stuff - to get past sensors. Ask Shimazu about breaking through e-locks, he can smash and grab.
10. Aswon - worried in smash and grab due to fast response. Tads - need to have escape route carefully planned. Kai thinking about blowing hole in the side of the building for exit. Aswon worried about attack choppers for anything that loud. Need Marius or Hunter for defeating electronics gizmos. Kai - possibly search for and find any underground tunnels.
11. Aswon alternative - get in, trank him, mind probe him and get the codes to open any alarms.
12. Tads suggest MAKING an underground tunnel - Aswon very much likes idea. Very quiet, only defence would be seismic sensors - pressure pads maybe an issue.
13. Hunter check weather, sleet+snow chance. Checking for blueprints for other churches - this is pretty unique, finds old picture of interior showing marble/stone floor. Marius thinks there will be an under croft due to weight of floor.
14. Tads suggest cutting power, Marius says it should default to local backup, may trigger a lockdown. Possibly they can use a power outage for something - may need to find local sub-station.
15. Tads - a tunnel would not be a smash and grab option, need time to close it down / hide it after.
16. Marius thinks they should plan in and out without anyone ever knowing they were there. Tads suggest leaving a replica gun there - Hunter, easy enough to find.
17. Kai asks about shape change - change the team to small animals. Tads - limited force, very difficult to do small creatures. Rat attack, chewing the cables - Marius, but that will just raise the other security to compensate. Aswon asks Hunter to do a run on the matrix site to see what it's like - ok roll, nothing special, finds military grade firewalls, high capacity link to a node down in the harbour.
18. Kai asks Tads if the admiral could be influenced to do something like take the pistol to bed - yes, but he might be somewhat resistant. Some discussion about how high his WP might be. Aswon - he's not an idiot if he's being targeted for assassination. And if he's survived - even more so.
19. Kai - another plan, hover over the top, run a line in through a window, tie it around the thing, then just yank it out like an ATM theft. Hunter not keen at all - doesn't want to damage the church.
20. Start getting gear list - snake cam, pick-axes, shovels, cordless drills, another 1911 to use as a replica.
21. Kai - can we create a natural disaster? Team - WTF? Marius, why do you always try to over-complicate things? Kai - just answer the question. Aswon - maybe, but we don't have ghost dance level powers - but why? Kai - it will raise AN alarm, but not an attack alarm.
22. Marius - has "idea" about sub periscope appearing in the bay - make the harbour force go on alert and cause a massive distraction.
23. Kai asks about magical tracking of the gun - Aswon covers it's possible but very difficult.
24. Tunnel from housing estate to left would be 450m+, take maybe half a day to dig.
25. Looking at places to stash the bird, possible places to hide. Kai wants astral fighters in the tunnel in case they bump into a spirit.
26. Agree to go, order stuff online, fly up to Baku, collect, Up over Russian border ok, get to Sochi, refuel 800km, start flying towards Crimea
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 220 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
The journey over the black sea was uneventful, and Marius got a good stealth roll, which along with the EDs, high signature, and spirit concealment ensured a smooth transition to land and approach to the target zone. The players spent a while having a look at the map of the area I was sharing, trying to work out where the best place would be to stash the bird, whilst still having it available if needed at reasonably short notice, eventually deciding on near the quarry to the east. Once in town they headed over to the “safe” house I’d made them aware of, and I made a quick check to see if they were spotted getting in – which they were. With a bit more time, some of those pesky Crimean Guerrillas may come a calling…
Still, once inside, they found the bugs left by the secret police, along with the teenage boy’s porn mags, made themselves at home and then started digging down through the floor to make their tunnel.
Hunter was definitely in the “ right skill, right time” category here – between Engineering, Geology, Logistics, Navigation and Reconnaissance skills, tied in with his Spatial Recogniser, Internal GPS and Orientation system cyberware, I figured there was pretty much no chance the tunnelling would go wrong – and he’s definitely getting a karma point or two for this section of the mission.
The tunnel got dug in a few hours – when I worked out the maths for how much mud Tads can shift, it’s quite frightening. She’s not going to be digging a channel tunnel anytime soon – but she smashed out a foot tunnel half a kilometre long in just a couple of hours, and a force 7 spell made short work of even solid rock. That bought them up under the church, and we started a bit of recon – finding out some info that should hopefully shape their assault next week.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Tuesday 1/2/2061, Location: 43.5821, 39.75945, Time 14:09
2. Taking off from Sochi, heading north-west, 500km to go to Sevastopol. Weather is sleet/rain, mountains are snowing and a few degrees below zero, otherwise about 5 degrees.
3. Hunter - house search. Finds a property where the people have probably been taken by the secret police - possibly for sedition. Aswon suggest walking to there from wherever they stash the chopper, break in quietly. Hunter also looks for periscope shots
4. Plan to head for hills to the east, about 7.5km from target area, pack rucksacks with digging gear. Int check for Marius - remembers that SINS are required to be set to beacon.
5. Once the bird is hidden, head down through the quarry to the hospital, then taxi to the house / dacha.
6. Marius direct routing, through mountains and then NOTE to the landing zone - good stealth check, over the border ok with a 17, NOTE flying. Tads makes a landing site, bird down ok, camo nets out.
7. Pack gear that is concealable / broken down. Aswon-purdey, Hunter-SMG+pistol, Kai pistol+bow, Marius-smg+pistol, Shimazu-pistol+sword
8. Tads+Aswon survival role for hiding the bird well - ok rolls, +leave spirit behind on concealment. Rain due in 20mins, temp 5-6 degrees
9. Get taxi over to the main city side, drop off at flats, walk through to location.
10. 2mins to open padlock on security grates and get into house. Someone does spot the team lurking around. Get in, house is wealthy by local standards, still quite poor. Check for bugs - Marius aces it. Finds listening device, transmitter in attic, battery already dead.
11. Check out the house, bit cheap, but probably expensive by local standards, photos of family, look normal for area. Kai asks for spirit to search for hidden things in the house.
12. Summon F3 hearth spirit, search for hidden things. Bad russian porn mags under floor boards in kids room.
13. Now about 16:00. Check out the garden and back of the house for digging. 0.5m sub-base, packed earth. Dig for an hour, then refresh spirits. Done with tunnel by 10pm. Doing the setup Tuesday to strike on Wednesday.
14. Looking for vantage points for the periscope plan, looking at flats between house and water, or a 2nd tunnel up into the woods near the church, with a dogleg.
15. Tads plan - spirit, tea-tray or saucepan scraping along the ocean floor.
16. Going with the plan to dig up into the trees. Team head back to house and rest. Sleet at 20 degree, strong winds, miserable. Aswon thinks about getting a small animal to use as a scent marker near tunnel - decides to leave it due to short duration. Aswon thinks, goes for a listen - can just hear the subwoofer from the movie playing. Tads digs smaller hole up towards undercroft. Into 1m high undercroft, no signs of anything man-made. Finds the vents going, across from side to side, finds stair case with ward going over. Aswon suggests breaking through to do surveillance during the day.
17. Kai - weighs up risks, asks Hunter and Aswon to stay in the croft and listen/watch. Tads makes a ramp to access. Comms checks every 2 hours via tunnel. Body 5 check for fungi - facemasks, both ok. Tads comes and does a sterilise in the area.
18. Hunter stealth check for drilling - not heard by people internally. Door about 6" thick. Internal wall structure, open room. Opulant and like an expensive hotel.
19. Spot guards on patrol after a few hours, naval ratings, uniforms with ballistic armour, heavy SMGs, gliding reflexes.
20. Kai - so who needs to go in, Marius - me for electronics. Kai - checks on Shimazu security/police procedures - check area around the house. Option 1, out back along the tunnel and back-fill. Option 2 - if in a rush, come out of the tunnel outside the perimeter, but then duck in and leave a false trail. Option 3 - run like hell and just do what you can in the tunnel. Aswon demo check - plant a fire in the tunnel.
21. Aswon - start a clock, check on the patrol rotation. Start looking astrally. Check the door, old lock, external access only, lip on the inside. Granite floor squares. one or two thin spots underneath. No modern intrusions down in the undercroft. Same patrol comes back 3 hours later.
22. Undercroft =
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 221 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
  • Argh! <random flailing of hands> I thought they were going to do the job today. I really did. But nooooooo. Anyone would think they were PARANOID about breaking into an Admirals quarters and defeating security while in spitting distance of a major naval base with armed warships and aircraft on hot alert. Grrr.
  • Ok, so I’ve nobody to blame for this one but myself – they’re just being cautious, gathering intel and working up a plan to try and minimise risk and prepare as carefully as possible, knowing that I will hammer the crap out of them if they mess up. Fair enough. But… between Tads and her outrageously powerful shape earth spell and the natural materials of the church (note to self – vaults with titanium composite floors next break-in job. Something with REALLY high object resistance, and maybe a ward on the outside…) and the full recon done with the spider drone, they now have a workable plan.
  • Actually they have two. The first is to influence the Admiral, get him to bypass all of his own security and get the gun out, then do a swap when he’s not looking using either an invisible and stealthed Shimazu, or using a levitate spell. IF they can get the influence spell off, that’s probably the easier plan, with less moving parts. The alternative is the late night insertion, defeat the security system and then break into the boxes and do the swap themselves – lots more steps and checks, but less reliance on one single thing which MUST work.
  • So, with any luck, next week they’ll all pile down the tunnel, and be involved in the break in, and get the job done. And just as they’re relaxing and starting to head down the tunnel, *that’s* when I’ll have the Crimean People’s Liberation Front bump into them in the tunnel, having had the house under surveillance for the last day or so (which the players have unfortunately failed to spot, despite repeated attempts). Note though, that the People’s Liberation Front of Crimea aren’t featured here – they operate on the south side of the harbour, not the north. Splitters…
  • But anyway – they’ll run into a bunch of guerrillas that are coming down the tunnel, leading to a very narrow and potentially hostile situation, and need to negotiate their way out of that – so all the problems are with the local freedom fighters, and not the Russians. The CPLF will want to take advantage of the tunnel to get in and get at the Admiral, but that does somewhat raise the alarm before the team have gotten away…
  • Still, we’ll see what happens – and that assumes they don’t raise the alarm themselves when going in!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Kai and Shimazu patrol around the house, observer stealth 9+4 cover=13. Perception 11 - not spotted. People walking to work, all tucked up. Tads checks that the tea-tray has been delivered down to the harbour.
2. Aswon mental note to check side tunnel at end of the day. Observe through the day, looking through the ward trying to spot for spirits and people.
3. Aswon and Shimazu try spotting for guards/spirits. Aswon fails, Shimazu gets basic read on the guards - cyber enhanced. Both WP tests, Aswon 3 (with a re-roll), Shimazu 2 - Shimazu feeling of peace/tranquillity/non-violence.
4. Aswon look at the guards as they test - look like trying to penetrate/check for illusions, quick physical poke - suspicious.
5. Discussion - could the distraction cause the alert to raise, make the guards go active in the church? Maybe save the periscope for after / getaway.
6. Tads - how long will the alert last? Aswon - guess at least 1 hour, maybe more, depends on procedures.
7. Hunter - military tactics roll, sub hunt will be long, slow, drawn out, maybe last most of a day.
8. Kai suggest - trigger the harbour alert, then try to trip sensors in the church as they try to set the alarm. Repeat until they realise it's "broken". Aswon - how do we do that? And won't their security know which one was triggered and be able to investigate?
9. Check temp in church - about 8-10 degrees internally. Talk about opening up the second ingress point, where the arch stones have fallen. Engineering roll - Hunter, very bad idea.
10. Observe until about 15:00. Guards every 2-3 hours, mix of clockwise and anti-clockwise. Captain, 2 LTs and some ensigns enter at 11:00, head from right to left, walk down corridor, attaché case, talking normally about something. Aswon checks reverberation, detects some music. 11:15 another group. Hunter suggest going with the periscope plan now, make the captains run back to the ships, might take the admiral with them. Aswon suggest the Admiral won't be able to not go, if the captains are all going. Shimazu psych test - Admiral probably in the building, no real reason to leave.
11. 13:45 Admiral and party come back, go to stairs, stand in hierarchy, Admiral half in and half out of the ward, leaving speech/talks, some jokes. Admiral back in, past the door. Aswon active masking in, gecko crawl up, active sound filtering. Just about work out he's in the middle of the church, past a shut door.
12. Aswon wonders if they have a font / water - maybe a centrepiece / raised dais. No idea on church design. Wonders aloud - nobody else has an idea.
13. Plan to launch spider drone in at 15:00, wait for patrol to pass, give it 1 minute, then launch spider drone. Tunnel closed behind it. Marius stealth roll - 3, RR 3, 2nd RR - 15
14. Marius int check - VCR not quite responding properly. Drone = sig 12, speed 2, move in and map the place out. Share view of map.
15. Check the upper level - not that dusty, just a little - but there are tracks in it. Spot the Persian rugs. Spot sensor pods in rooms and corridors.
16. Marius - influence on him to get the gun, allow us in. Tads - it's los so possible, but maybe still hard, admiral likely to be strong willed. Find the access ladder to the top route. Check out the museum and get more details on that.
17. Kai - can we create a hole from underneath, and get Marius hands up and in to disrupt security system.
18. Vibration sensors, laser surrounds, negative pressure on the case itself - Kai, helps keep the antiques safe.
19. Team suspect weakness is the alarm cabling, probably going into the utility room. Excellent test to check out the utility room, spot the junction in the bottom of the utility room / pantry, WiFi or laser link to the guard room.
20. Hunter plans spatial plan / orientation system to get under the utility room and under cabinet 1
21. Team discussion - defeat the utility room junction, Tads in, trid-phantasm, then Marius, back down, up into the museum, defeat the security, trid-phantasm over the roof, then get into the display cabinet.
22. Tads moves earth under the utility room.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Nice to see the site back up! Episode 222 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
The team started off having a bit of a chat, which then seemed to give an indication of extending… so it was time to flex a bit of GM direction and chivvy them along. After letting them get their initial bits said, I ran through a summary of what they knew, and then asked them which of the two plans they’d previously discussed they were going with, trying to shut down the discussion that might lead to plans C-Q. Eventually we got underway, and they went on with the plan – and things went pretty smoothly. They’d done good research, plotted and planned, worked out what they were going to do as best they could. They’d even identified that there *might* be a spirit in there, but they’d have to wait and see. So – a lot of the ‘obstacles’ they could have faced, didn’t crop up.
It wasn’t a milk run by any stretch of the imagination – but with the level they’re now operating at, and with a couple of karma re-rolls thrown in, they achieved enough successes to be able to get in and get the job done. Even when the free spirit surprised them, and started trying to get some karma out of them, they handled it smoothly, made their charisma checks, told it what it wanted to hear and avoided the alarm being set off.
So – the job was simple. In ok, defeat the alarm, use the security system to get the code, great decking run to examine the footage, bypass the security and they got hold of the Colt 1911, Serial number 0000000001, leaving one that looks similar in its place.
Thanks to the paranoia from Tads, they even got a heads up when the Crimean Guerrillas got into the tunnel, and managed to ambush them and defuse the situation before it all went wrong, and had Kai in place to fox them with his fast-talk, and get away from that cleanly. So – maximum points for planning, leading to a smooth mission outcome and very little in the way of loose ends or forensics left behind.
Job’s a good un, as they say, and now it’s time to head off to the trans-caucus mountains to go talismongering and look for an Eagle (even though they don’t actually need to let the ‘heat’ die down due to the cleanliness of the job)

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 2/2/2061, Location: 44.63639, 33.55829, Time 18:15:00
2. Aswon raise query - up through the floor of the museum, rather than walk around.
3. Get to dusk, resummon and order.
4. Aswon - when do we want to do this - mid-evening, late evening, early hours?
5. Kai can go soon, cause the distraction, then go
6. Aswon - do we need the distraction?
7. Tads - I don't want to unless we need to, I'm the one that has to keep us alive on the way out.
8. Kai - we won't do before we break in - should plan on using it to cover the exit.
9. Aswon - some food stuff in the utility room, wait until after dinner so the cooks won't come int
10. Marius - but yes, then go, so noise of cinema/music covers what we're doing.
11. Kai checks on tads getting through the ward then casting spell. Tads confirms. Aswon - important note - we have not verified if there's a spirit in there, that could raise the alarm.. Kai - noted. Aswon, you're the backup if the alarm goes off.
12. Tactical things - guards might have different walks if the Admiral is up or in bed. Hunter or Shimazu need to be in to hold floor tiles in place while Tads flows the earth in underneath.
13. Tads - do have a high force Fix spell to fix the cabinets after the break in.
14. Discussion about the museum room, maybe needing a trid over the roof, possible loops.
15. Working out exit strategy, order of run. Tads - leaving one spirit in the house as an alarm.
16. Tads planning on cleansing sig on the way out for the first few metres.
17. Team all happy, ready to go.
18. Tads casts ok. Shuffle people around, boost Tads in, ok athletics check, pans, catch just in time, trid phantasm up with 6+ successes on F6. Light stun
19. More shuffling, Marius in, B/R test for the case. 4 successes, 5 minutes - anti-tamper to hell, rating 3.
20. Electronics roll, 1 success, RR 3. Very capable system, they're only using 1/3 of the resources. Not rigging, looks like they are using the computer interface in the guard room, not the rigger interface. Some discussion about running an extra cable down to allow local console access
21. Electronics B/R on 4s to splice in the extension cable for console access.
22. Surprise check on Marius and Tads as they go to put case on.
23. Orthodox bishop out of the wall - "alms! for the poor!" Marius goes to grab some Iranian hard currency on the side "of course" not surprised at all. Tads completely surprised. "That's very nice and all, but what are you doing." Marius asks for alms or arms. It clarifies it wants karma. Holds robes up, looks pitiful. "Oh, so you're a good orthodox then" "I have a deep abiding respect for those doing gods work" Takes 3 karma for 1, crosses, blesses, then dematerialises. Marius gets the case on, Marius goes to grab the cash for forensics, spirit appears "thought that was for the poor" Marius - just a misunderstanding. Leaves the cash, plans to sterilise to clean it and the cable. Marius down the hole.
24. Disable camera for a few minutes, drop the trid, sterilise, cleanse, down the hole, Hunter holds up the floor, shape earth, re-support.
25. ten minute wait for Tads to recover stun. Marius creates super-user for Hunter.
26. Hunter computer check, 1 RR 4, full control. Cabinets are separate systems, one way output.
27. Shape earth and move tiles, get up into museum, security systems roll - Shimazu check - he has procedures but not devices. Marius default to electronics. 1 success, stays with that. Internal hinges and controls, low air pressure.
28. Tads cast stealth on the case just in case, F3 to muffle any alarm. Marius suggest checking the footage and find if they can see the admiral typing in the code. Hunter checks, 2 rr 4. 15 min search, get 8 digit code, Admirals birthday probably. Tap code in, hiss from Podium, case thunks open. Check code on other cases - will take a while. No alarm raised.
29. Aswon - are we swapping and leaving, or stealing everything.
30. Tads - why don't we just do the one thing we came for
31. Aswon - lots of cash.
32. Spirit - there's someone in the house. Got told to tell you. I just told you.
33. Marius swaps the 1911 over. "Everyone out!" Tads drops stealth, cleanse, sterilise, cleanse. Marius "Movement outside, we haven't got time for this, let's go!"
34. Kai - "Shimazu and I will go deal with the house, get all the stuff and steal it!" Kai "lets" Shimazu go first. By the time they get to the tunnel they can see flashlights at the end of the tunnel, coming towards them.
35. Kai urge Shimazu to the side tunnel to hide / ambush. Shimazu bad stealth, RR, worse, RR gets a 7.
36. Marius "Not stealing fuck all" claims he heard noise in the corridor outside, "let's go"
37. Kai and Shiamzu hear, talking in Russian, confusion and wonder at the tunnel, leading to the church, how much c4 do we have. Marius and Hunter swap over, clean up logs, put floor back. Aswon move to tunnel end.
38. People coming to approach of side tunnel. Kai behind Shimazu. Confused, excited, tense. "tunnel splits, which way, be careful" First guy leans round corner, fails surprise check. Shimazu tases him, goes down, no soak "Dimitry"
39. Roll init. Kai 20, Shimazu 20, Aswon 19, Guerrillas 9
40. Shimazu first, step round the corner, tase the next guy. TN5, Guerrilla #2 down, Step back round corner. Kai "what are you idiots doing down here, we're about to blow the place!" Charisma+Kinesics check, 4 successes. Aswon uses spirit concealment and closes
41. "Which cell are you, what do you mean blow the place up, why do you attack us?"
42. "Identify yourself now!"
43. "Gregory, north town cell, who are you?"
44. "Ivar, demolition team!" Kai steps out, holds taser pointing up. Shimazu has to move out
45. "Ivar? Never heard of Ivar"
46. "Got 5 minutes to get out before it blows, chat in the house" holster pistol.
47. "You killed our men!"
48. "They're not dead, just unconscious, drag them out now!" They start to drag bodies back. Confused, but don't want to be in the blast zone. Keep checking behind, but hustle towards the house. Kai - subvocal to team, "we have terrorists, want to blow the place, I don't want them to. When we get out, complain the explosives weren't ready, let them take over.
49. Shimazu - we didn't want to damage the church.
50. Kai -
51. Get the drone back out same way it went in. Tads fills the hole on the inside with dirt to block up the hole. Sterilise below the ward, then cleanse.
52. Shimazu leaps out of hole, into the guerrillas under the stairs.
53. Kai subvocal "we have an option" Marius "I don't want to hear it, make it too complicated" Kai "listen to the plan, tell them we have a cable, more useful for spying than blowing the place up, convince them it's better than explosions in the long run"
54. Aswon - "I like that, better, make with the blag"
55. First aid on the two downed guys to check on them. "You already broke protocol telling me your name, we need to get out of here."
56. "What are you trying to do"
57. "We're not breaking protocol, we need to get out of here"
58. "I need to report in to...someone."
59. "No, you can't blow cover. We need to be ready to run."
60. Spot Aswon, freak a bit, go to draw guns, Kai "don't be rude" "Is he with you ?"
61. Tads 90% block tunnel, leave just enough to see the tunnel goes on, rockfall in front, and a bit more blocked at the church, really thin wall blocking off view
62. Guerrillas now outnumbered, start to chill a bit. Hunter prepares map of the church, sanitises data. Aswon suggest bawling out one of the team for the failed detonation. Kai rants at someone in Azerbaijani. Guerrilla "how long?" Kai "explosives have failed, we need to report to command. But here's a map of the place so you can spy on them.
63. Tads - "boss, there was a rock fall, closed off a few metres."
64. Guerrilla "can we get the admiral"
65. Kai - "check with command, we have their comms tapped, only take the admiral if command tells you. We're going, east, wait ten minutes, then you go west, report in to command."
66. Tads - "and cover the hole will you. I'm nipping to the loo." Summons watcher to surveil them and report in to her.
67. Leaving the house about 19:30. Hunter - can check the hospital visiting times, to avoid the curfew.
68. Tads - "spirit concealment on us all, heading east on foot." Team head north and hoof over the fields, go the long way around to avoid patrols and built up areas. Watcher spirit catches up with them about 25 mins, saying the other team left after 10.
69. Get back to the tilt-wing for 10:30
70. End session.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 223 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
With the 1911 safely stowed, it was time to get away from Sevastopol. Thanks to the planning, the getaway was clean, and there was no alert or anything to raise the alarm, so they should have had no problems. Of course, nothing ever goes 100% according to plan, so it was time t let Marius know that strange things were afoot with his cyber-ware. As the nanites implanted by Ares continue to do their work, his VCR is breaking down – as is some of his bioware (his synaptic accelerators). The plan is to gradually have both systems “fail” and deconstruct, ideally timing them to happen by not long after they get to Paris, so the last leg of the journey, from France to the Netherlands, has to be done in an effectively unrigged craft, where the risk will thus ramp up considerably.

Once they get to the secret Ares black hospital though, he’ll get his unique special gear (like Aswon’s spear) which is a new prototype bit of riggerware that effectively combines with wired reflexes into one big boost package. I’ve sort of modelled this on the “move by wire” ware that came in Man & Machine, but this one adds in the VCR element too. Even better, as a prototype – they’ll keep sending him upgraded firmware and new patches to improve the quality, so it will effectively top out as a VCR3/Wired reflexes 3 – but at a nice low (relatively speaking) essence cost. Of course, the reason they can send these things through to him is the tracking software and reporting hooks installed in his systems – Damian Knight is no dummy after all!

The team is thus aware that their pilot isn’t operating at full capacity and are starting to think about what that means for them, and how they can cope, but also get the impression that there’s very little they can do about it (which is correct) so they’re pushing on with their plans –
which here means getting the Imperial Eagle and getting some raw materials. With Tads able to create food, they have a really strong way to get in the Eagle’s good books, which they took immediate advantage of.

When I was growing up, my step-dad kept birds of prey – we had a number of hawks and falcons in aviaries in the back garden, as well as a barn owl that lived in the house (very young picture of me with the owl in question for our local paper: As a result, while I’m generally cognisant of the fact that they are generally very pretty, superb hunters, graceful and have excellent vision – I’m also well aware of just how derpy and stupid they can be. Look for pictures of wet birds of prey (particularly owls I’d say) and it will totally change your outlook on them. So – having grown up around various birds, I definitely wanted to include some of the less awesome behaviours in the portrayal of this eagle.

Persuading the bird to come with them is going to be pretty easy. Ridiculously so in fact. As long as Tads keeps literally pulling rabbits out of a hat, the eagle will happily sit wherever its told and just eat, taking the easy life option. Their difficulty may come in getting it to leave when they get to Paris… - but that’s for the future.

Finally, the Chechen force in the bottom of the valley is purely flavour – they pose no threat to the team at all, and are just to make them aware of the world they live in. The bandits that are moving through the mountains however – they’re a different kettle of fish. Well, actually – no they’re not. They’re a bunch of mooks with barely functional weapons, no training and absolutely no change against the players at all. I may even not roll initiative when they pop up and just narrate how utterly the team outclass them and just ask the team in what way they want to humiliate the enemy and what state they will leave them in. I figure the team are due a very one-sided fight, just to emphasise how far they’ve come and just how dangerous they are to “regular” people now.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 2/2/2061, Location: 44.61756, 33.62658, Time 22:30:00
2. Hunter perception when bird over water. Good roll, spots the bird heading for the water. Physically nudges Marius to alert him - good perception, pulls up, try to determine what is going on. Diagnostics - artificial horizon drift. Not in the bird, in the VCR. Marius pulls up to a better height, goes to auto-pilot. Then runs diagnostics. Weird subsystem anomalous readings, nothing too drastic - yet. Marius moves to captains chair mode and controls like a drone instead. More able to ignore anomalous stuff, but more aware of a lag.
3. Marius flies "safer", still don't get picked up, into Sochi and refuel. 500km back to Sochi, arrive at 23:30-24:00. 1000km fuel, 7,500 Nuyen, drops team to <100k
4. Aswon - stick to higher valleys to avoid Chechen camps in low valleys. Warzones fluxing, combat vs readying for assaults. North more combat, south more supplies.
5. Survival rolls - heading away from roads, Pskhu-Gimista Nature reserve. Noticeable janky flying from Marius.
6. Hunter rolls cyber-tech and nano-tech. Suggests nanotech weakening systems, linear progression, may only have a few weeks.
7. Discussion - Tads - can you spare a week. Aswon - Is it getting worse with use, or with time. Hunter - and I can still learn to fly. Aswon - he's still a great pilot, without his vcr. Suggests step down to VCR1. Marius agrees
8. Look at maps - down in the valley, by the river, or in a clearing half way up, or up near the glacial lakes in the shadow of the mountain. Thinking about altitude sickness and acclimatisation. And Tads has an oxygenate spell now, which will help.
9. Heading for the tops, roll out tarp+cammo net, get in snivel gear.
10. Talismongering: Shimazu (2), Paracritters (1). Kai - Tmonger (2), Aswon Tmonger (3), Critters (3), Tads Tmonger 3, Geolgy 3, Botany 3, Critters (3), Metallurgy 3
11. 10 talismonging dice, 16 complimentary - 3 main test, 6 (3) on complimentary
12. Hunter does nano and cyber again in more controlled circumstances. Not much more succeses, but confirms early thoughts. VCR is breaking down bit by bit, likely to be an issue soon. Start to multi-stream data and corroborate data to avoid glitches.
13. Talismonger for 3 days, 1 unit metals, 2 herbal. Day 4, Aswon spots Eagle, astral perception, checks it out. Looks legit. WP test - empathy power, Aswon feels "hungry" - really fancies a rabbit. Aswon gets spear, go looks for rabbit. Tads create food - cooked rabbit in front of him. Tads checks thrown, makes a 2nd, to throw up in the air. Throw check. Eagle takes it on the wing, goes to cliff edge. Mantles up a bit, starts to eat. Look around for nest / mates. Check for ambushes.... Eagle loses remains of first rabbit down the cliff. Team prepare 2nd rabbit to throw. Paracritters rolls, watching eagle. Mr Creosote, comes down for 2nd rabbit, drops up the top, starts to preen.
14. Looks exactly right for an imp eagle, probably a female. Mature. 2nd assense - not great, but smug contentment. Aswon now has a hankering for rabbit, makes rabbit stew.
15. Aswon - suggest making food, leaving it a way off, but on the ground. Tads - can make it LOS. Aswon - but I want it to know it's come from us. Tads - oh, ok. Creates 2 rabbits, just in case - no, 1 rabbit, one steak. Throw across floor. Tads puts up resistance on all but Aswon, to make him "accessible". Aswon not keen on this, asks for protection.
16. Eagle comes down and lands. Hopping. Pounce. Gets to rabbit, mantles, keeps popping up to watch them. Aswon gestures to Tads when it looks, Tads drops masking. Sudden consisten blast of wind from the north, ongoing - but not hostile. Tads creates a steak next to the rabbit. Bird freaks out a bit, fails quickness check, rolls and stumbles, then flaps furiously to fly off. Circles the tilt-wing, watching. Moves focus to the steak, Tads assenses - self concious, but now focussed on the steak. Bird swoops down to the steak. Tads tries mindlink. Very basic throughts, more an emotional level. Tads tries to show it team is all food providers, not threats.
17. Hunter spots mule train moving right down in the valley floor, about 50 people, 30 mules, moving west to east. Grabs binoculars and looks at them more closely. Closer look, either bandits or chechens, covering a lot of distance, somewhat tactical.
18. Day 5 start - pick up next time.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 224 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
With some successful talismongering under the belt, and contact made with the Eagle, now they just had to come up with a plan to capture it. Aswon/Jez had the idea of using the Saviour med-kit to try and make some drugs to calm it down and sedate it, and to look for a vet knowsoft chip on the matrix to make sure they didn’t accidently poison it. Seemed like a reasonable thing, so I let them find one – but at a hefty markup. Some discussion about the potential value of it later and they stumped up the cash, so after a couple of hours of chemistry, they had some workable avian sedatives. Feeding the bird went ok, with nobody doing anything stupid, so the capture was fairly smooth and straightforward, and as Hunter had done a couple of hours of matrix research, they were able to make a hood for the bird and get it stowed away safely.

During the session of course it was time for a few wrinkles to appear. The first being Germaine and her botched job, and the second being the person they had to drop off to in Iasi.

The art-recovery job for Germaine was down in Oman, and was also going to provide the team with a new smuggler base / fuel stop, extending their range out in Gulf and down the eastern side of Africa – but the team passed it up previously, so they’ll have to discover this later in some other way. However, the mission was still going to happen, so Germaine found a team that could do it. Unfortunately for her, she hired “Unsubtle” – the team of runners that the players encountered at the Tehran market (Modulo, Mono, Door, Gorgon and Dice). They took the job, carried it out, found out that the package was really very valuable and then double-crossed their employer and have run off with the goods. Germaine is not happy at all – unhappy enough to want them wiped out in a very messy, brutal and clear statement of what happens with runners who double-cross their employers. She’s happy to spend far more on this than she’ll ever make getting the artwork sold or moved on – but it’s about the principle of the thing now. The British Empire didn’t get where it was by letting savages and foreigners take liberties, what what… Oh Germaine….

Still, for the team this means a run to find another team of runners, who might not be up to their level of experience, but are still well armed and armoured, and much more combat focussed – so potentially a very credible risk to them.

The second part was more of an RP threat, which was the knowledge and lore about “Cosmic”. I’d written two similar bits of background fluff, one for Kai to potentially “remember”, and the other for Hunter to discover:

Kai - Antiquities / Smuggling
Cosmic? Yeah, you heard of him. Big time dealer, mostly in weapons and combat stuff, especially the older gear. Supposed to be a pretty laid back guy most of the time, but there's rumours you heard from a few contacts that the guy is an absolute psychopath. Some deal went bad in '57, and the buyers for some gear tried to pull out of a deal and steal his gear or something like that. They made the mistake of kidnapping Cosmic's family, and he apparently went ballistic. Turned the whole city upside down, and put a bounty on the heads of the people that stiffed him big enough that org-crime in half a dozen countries were looking for them. When they got found, he put the whole lot out of business - permanently. Word got around, don't make him cross the line.

Hunter - Matrix search
Cosmic - or Cosmos Popov, is a black market dealer based in northern Romania. He deals mainly with historical weapons of all kinds, as well as other military and war memorabilia - the older the better.

Cosmic works as an independent, has an arrangement with the local org-crime syndicates and plays them off against each other when he can. He works to remain neutral between them though, and the markets he runs are generally safe spaces between the Mafia, Triads, Rings and Yakuza.

Cosmic has a rep for being a straight dealer, though tight fisted and hard to please. He's not particularly fierce, but there seems to be a lot of people afraid of him for some reason.

Digging deeper, word is back in the late fifties, some group tried to put a squeeze on his family, to force him into a deal. Cosmic blew his top, and called in markers with all the syndicates, and had death-squads chase them down, pursuing them across seven countries. They captured them in Portugal and shipped them back to Romania for Cosmic to make a demonstration of them.

The captured group were injected with some kind of bio-nanite that went to town on their central nervous system. Ate away at the nerve sheaths or something, turned them into paraplegics. Then he had their eyes scooped out and their eardrums perforated, before cutting out their tongues and feeding them to his dogs. Something about the stuff he put in them made them unsuitable for cyber replacements, and word is there's a bunch of nuggets sitting in a mental ward somewhere - blind, deaf and dumb, living out the remains of their lives like that.

Pretty clear and brutal stories I’m hoping. When they meet Cosmic, I’m planning on him being a weird kind of non-entity. Not charismatic, not threatening. Somewhat dis-interested. Somewhat inoffensive and unremarkable. At some point during the discussion / negotiations (and it will be interesting to see how far Fozzy/Kai pushes things with that reputation!) Cosmic’s husband will come in to see him, and he’ll hopefully ‘come alive’, suddenly showing a warmth, consideration and compassion that was absent before. There will be hugging, long lingering looks, and some of that improved attitude will spill over onto the players interaction. And then – he just ends his business and leaves, without particularly wanting to get to know them, or offer them any further work. Behind the scenes, he’s somewhat happy with them for a job well done and on time, so they’re in his book now, with a ‘slightly better than idiots’ rating, so they may hear from him again – but not until later.

But the team will also have come across potentially their first gay NPC, whom I’m hoping won’t be in any way noteworthy with regards to his sexuality, and should be remembered mostly for the unconditional love he has for his partner (who just happens to be same-sex) and his willingness to set fire to the entire world in the pursuit of anyone who messes with them.

It struck me a while back, that a lot of my NPCs were designed from a very sheltered world-view, and that there was remarkably little diversity. Part of that diversity is presenting people with very different world-views from a standard “human-centric” point of view, which can be a challenge in some ways – and I try to make sure that my trolls, orks, dwarves and other fantastical races that inhabit the Shadowrun world aren’t just walking cliches or stereotypes (or are, offensively so, in a weird ‘proving the point’ kind of way) – but the other part is thinking about the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+ kind of population.

What I don’t want to do is include someone who ‘is gay’ and the players can see because they do ‘the gay things’ in front of them – I don’t want them to be caricatures that are the ‘only gay in the smuggler stop’ kind of behaviour. I want them to be portrayed as complex, realistic characters who just happen to have one particular characteristic that is non-white-male-cis-het-privileged.

Hopefully with a bit more thought and some research, I can start presenting a whole bunch of NPCs who have a little bit more nuance and some depth, who might have some opportunities or baggage attached to them because of their characteristics, that the players can either then try to subtly exploit – or take care not to step on, that will improve on the RP side of things.

Either that, or they’ll blunder in like a bull in a china shop, stepping all over sensibilities, and wonder why nobody wants to be their friends any more and word gets out that they’re a bunch of assholes.

Players. Could go either way. And with this bunch, it could go both ways, at the same time.

We’ll just have to wait and see…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Monday 7/2/2061, Location: 43.62059, 40.7384, Time 08:00
2. Start of day 5 in the mountains. Potentially one more talismonger, and the eagle will start pestering the team for food. At some point it hops into the bird and perches somewhere, shits all over some supplies and then screams until fed.
3. Tads morning shift, hears tapping, goes out astrally to see bird running up and down on the roof. Back to body, then goes out physically. Creates steak in the air, it falls, bird slides, lands with a thump, starts to eat. Create second steak next to it. Little jump, but not too alarmed this time. Takes off back to eerie with half of first steak, leaving 2nd on the ground.
4. Kai asks tads if she can communicate with it, she tries to explain that it's aware but not really thinking. Very instinctive. Can maybe slide thoughts into its head. Tads mindlinks to try to encourage it not to knock / land for food. It comes down to grab 2nd steak in a shallow dive then returns to perch.
5. Kai - how long are we staying. Marius we were going to stay a week. Tads - but that was to get some materials, which we have, to get the eagle - which might not be good. There's no heat that we know about from the gun, and we don't want to wait too long because of the cyberware. Tads checks for damage to the PVPs and does fix spell.
6. Hunter checks again for heat on the 1911. Kai asks if they can stun the bird and keep it stunned until Paris - tads not keen, and they have to drop the gun off anyway.
7. Hunter check on hooding the birds - can be done for periods of time to calm it.
8. Kai calls Ganesh. Hi, we're in an area, might have an Imperial Eagle, might have a plan to get it. Do you want it? Can you get it to Paris? Yeah, have to stick a sock on it's head. Don't want to hear about your sexual fetishes. Can you get us into France as couriers? No, but I can get you import paperwork. Get me the details for it and I'll get some fake import details sorted.
9. Team get details and long range photos together and as much detail as possible to forward on to Ganesh.
10. Aswon - can we get a crate warded to store and keep the bird in for travel? Tads - and we need to sort legal landing in Paris? Aswon - I bet we can use the helipad at the zoo, if we're delivering to them. Some discussion about fuel ranges, and having to refuel. Kai border procedures checks
11. Kai - 1 or 2 more days to acclimatise the bird to us, before we go? Tads - is it worth it? Defrays fuel cost, but is this too much of a distraction. Aswon - building a box from stuff in the back, to put it in, ward it. Feed it in small lumps, little and often. Aswon suggest getting a vet knowsoft to use on the deck/saviour kit - to help with this and future critter hunting.
12. Kai - get a spirit to go steal the steak, to keep it hungry and wanting to come back.
13. Hunter looking for vet packages / knowsofts - rating 5 expert system plugin for 9k.
14. Kai thinking about getting the details for gun drop off - no heat reported. Aswon - can't believe he hasn't noticed. Kai - Antiques check, probably don't get handled.
15. Marius calls Halys - engaged, auto text busy for a while, send a text. Marius texts, want to deliver package, Tuesday or weds
16. Text back to Marius "Deliver package to Iasi, Romania. Head for Strada Tel Firm, contact Cosmic on 555 112 83483" - first check for Kai on "cosmic" No success, having a RR, still none.
17. Marius also calls Ares Eindhoven to prep for surgery
18. By end of day they have a soporific for the bird assuming there is nothing wrong with it.
19. Germaine sends a text "have job, is urgent, please call" Kai gets some signal, then calls her.
20. Other team have stolen her artwork, job she was offering to the team, got another team, but they have now stolen the stuff.
21. Kai explains about Marius being sick, needing to be fixed. But can do after that. She says she will send a dossier.
22. Germaine explains that this needs to be somewhat public. And get the artwork back.
23. Aswon - maybe the team was already on a retainer for someone else - might be politics involved, maybe need to go after them after the team, keep Germaine onside.
24. Tuesday morning, animal handling default checks. Keep feeding it titbits all day, until eyes are half lidded.
25. Kai checks with Ganesh on status - text back, it's coming, with you in the next 3-4 hours.
26. Marius cues up the surgery, asks for landing facilities. Response - head to Eindhoven airport, private terminals. Rental is 150Ny per day.
27. Getting Hunter to do legit flight plan from Paris to Eindhoven.
28. Move to sedate the bird, Kai biotech.
29. Call Pierre at Paris zoo. Hello? My name is Kai. We're animal importers, have an imperial eagle. Are you interested in a deal. Yes who contacted you - Ganesh. Arrange for midnight drop off, in the car park - they will cordon off an area. Send us co-ordinates. We'll aim to be there at 12:30 "We got one" as he puts the phone down.
30. Hood the bird and get it in the box.
31. Takeoff - really shonky one for Marius, but airborne
32. Out over Russian border, black sea, skirt around Crimea, towards Romania, then north to Iasi.
33. 2nd check for Kai - gets a success, recalls some details about Cosmic
34. Cosmic? Yeah, you heard of him. Big time dealer, mostly in weapons and combat stuff, especially the older gear. Supposed to be a pretty laid-back guy most of the time, but there's rumours you heard from a few contacts that the guy is an absolute psychopath. Some deal went bad in '57, and the buyers for some gear tried to pull out of a deal and steal his gear or something like that. They made the mistake of kidnapping Cosmic's family, and he apparently went ballistic. Turned the whole city upside down, and put a bounty on the heads of the people that stiffed him big enough that org-crime in half a dozen countries were looking for them. When they got found, he put the whole lot out of business - permanently. Word got around, don't make him cross the line.
35. Call the end of the session there, just cleared the border into Romania, heading north.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 225 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
A fairly simple session this week, taken up with some travelling, a meeting, then more travelling, a hand-off, then ending with… more travelling. A lot of ground to cover technically, but I wasn’t planning on adding any major curveballs.
First thing I did was a quick check on the rules regarding stress and voluntarily risking extra stress for more dice on tests – I didn’t *think* Marius would need to do that, given his skill level (even without his VCR). But, best to try and be prepared – so a note was made: “Getting across Europe - border crossing, manual flying - chance to inflict stress for extra dice on crossings. P64 Rigger 3” as well as having a quick re-read on the rules to refresh them in my mind.

Next I had a look at the route, and worked out where the team would go, looking for quiet flight paths, away from major population centres where possible and using the cover of hills and mountains to obscure their passage. Next note made in my session plan: “West across Romania to Suceava, then up into the mountains, follow north to Slovakia, across to Austria (skirting around Vienna), then through Swiss Alps and down into France not far from Geneva”

With a rough flight plan worked out, I could then break down the route into sections, and look at the distances and timings. Google Maps helpfully provides the ruler for doing some measurements, and my spreadsheet allows me to enter speeds in metres/combat turn and spits out the equivalent in mph, kph and knots, then feeds that data into a 2nd section where I can enter the distance to travel, and it will let me know how many combat turns, minutes, hours or days it will take to cover that distance.

Last of all, again on my master GM spreadsheet, I’ve collated all of the border crossing / sensor information from the various “Shadows of” books, and every other source I can find, and then started extrapolating data and filling in details for other countries that we’ve encountered – so I had a list of the sensor ratings, professional levels and border crossing notes for their route.
• Iasi to Suceava, 123km, 15 minutes, no crossings
• Suceava to Slovakia, 318km,35m, sensors 5
• Slovakia > Austria, 315km,35m, sensors 6
• Austria > Switzerland, 390km,43m sensors 8
• Switzerland > French border, 232km,25m, sensors 7
• Border to Paris, 434 km, 48m
• Total 1813km, 3 hours 21m
With the plan worked out, I pre-rolled all the sensor checks before the game session, and while I did get some high rolls (a couple that were 18+) – I only ever got one success at a high number – and with the bird having EDs, the border team would need multiple. This was exactly what I was expecting (and what I’d designed in when I gave them the tilt-wing as a replacement for the chopper) – to allow them to get about without too much hassle, as long as they were careful and discrete. If they get too blatant, then aircraft get scrambled with a couple of levels of ECDs and then it’s all very much more risky! But, for now – between the natural stealth of the bird, a good vehicle-stealth check from Marius, and the force 5 spirit concealment from Tads, they were golden and had a smooth journey all the way over. I also didn’t roll for any random encounters, so it was plain sailing for the journey.

First though, they had to get through the meeting with Cosmic. I described the kids playing on their original landing site just as some local colour, expecting the team to shoo them away with spirits or something – but no, they decided to find a new landing spot instead. Then, two of the team seemed to get really fixated on the random donkeys in the corner of the field – which again I wasn’t expecting. However, if they want to play Donkey Feeding Simulator ’22 – who am I to argue? And joking aside, it wasn’t actually surprising, given the nature of the two characters – just the level of investment they seemed to have in ensuring their well-being.

With that sorted, the rest of the team walked down through Iasi. I’ve actually visited the city a good few years back with work, and one of the things I really noted in Romania was the difference between rich and poor, and how intermingled they were. Here in the UK, you tend to get higher and lower class neighbourhoods, where they’re all fairly consistent within an area, slowly melding at boundaries such as main roads or major geographical points. In Romania I noticed shacks and hovels built inbetween massive mansions, mixed together regardless of the area – as well as some very brutal Soviet era concrete construction (and I also saw a pack of dogs that had learnt how to use a pelican crossing, which was quite surreal). So, I tried to build some of that 1st hand experience into the description of the journey and the area.

The team seemed to draw the right conclusion from the cop car not doing anything about the armed goons on the street – it wasn’t explicitly discussed, but I think they got that Cosmic was either protected or paying off the police, and that he was thus a ‘player’ in the local scene.
When they got in to see him, I had a small set piece planned, both to see what they would do, and to try and expand on my character writing a little. Firstly, when they met Cosmic, I tried my best to portray him as someone that just wasn’t that impressive, notable or memorable. For such a “big shot” in the particular scene, he appeared somewhat nervous, uncharismatic and bland. And then his partner arrived – and he transforms in their presence.

Suddenly, he’s calmer, more focussed, and there is joy and animation in his face, his whole being transforms and he’s so much more vibrant and alive – and his love for his partner shines through.
As part of an effort to think more about my characters and the diverse world we live in, I wanted to depict a gay character, but try to make sure that this aspect or facet of their character was very minor. In terms of the story or events, if this had been a female character that walked in, it would have made no difference at all. Other than a minor description change, the events would have played out the same, and it would have been un-remarkable. Hopefully this means I wrote the character well, and the fact that they were gay is a point so minor it’s barely a thing – and that in terms of representation it’s a positive thing.

The other main part of this was to underscore Cosmic’s absolute and intense love for his partner – and to add some context to the rumour that Kai ‘remembered’ from the previous session. For reference, I gave Kai a check on his Smuggling skill several times (because hey, I wanted the information to get to the players), with him then getting the following:
“Cosmic? Yeah, you heard of him. Big time dealer, mostly in weapons and combat stuff, especially the older gear. Supposed to be a pretty laid back guy most of the time, but there's rumours you heard from a few contacts that the guy is an absolute psychopath. Some deal went bad in '57, and the buyers for some gear tried to pull out of a deal and steal his gear or something like that. They made the mistake of kidnapping Cosmic's family, and he apparently went ballistic. Turned the whole city upside down, and put a bounty on the heads of the people that stiffed him big enough that org-crime in half a dozen countries were looking for them. When they got found, he put the whole lot out of business - permanently. Word got around, don't make him cross the line.”
I’d prepared a follow up for if they did some digging into his character, allowing for Hunter to find the following on the matrix:
“Cosmic - or Cosmos Popov, is a black market dealer based in northern Romania. He deals mainly with historical weapons of all kinds, as well as other military and war memorabilia - the older the better.
Cosmic works as an independent, has an arrangement with the local org-crime syndicates and plays them off against each other when he can. He works to remain neutral between them though, and the markets he runs are generally safe spaces between the Mafia, Triads, Rings and Yakuza.
Cosmic has a rep for being a straight dealer, though tight fisted and hard to please. He's not particularly fierce, but there seems to be a lot of people afraid of him for some reason.
Digging deeper, word is back in the late fifties, some group tried to put a squeeze on his family, to force him into a deal. Cosmic blew his top, and called in markers with all the syndicates, and had death-squads chase them down, pursuing them across seven countries. They captured them in Portugal and shipped them back to Romania for Cosmic to make a demonstration of them.
The captured group were injected with some kind of bio-nanite that went to town on their central nervous system. Ate away at the nerve sheaths or something, turned them into paraplegics. Then he had their eyes scooped out and their eardrums perforated, before cutting out their tongues and feeding them to his dogs. Something about the stuff he put in them made them unsuitable for cyber replacements, and word is there's a bunch of nuggets sitting in a mental ward somewhere - blind, deaf and dumb, living out the remains of their lives like that.”

The players didn’t actually dig into Cosmic, so they didn’t get the 2nd part – I was hoping they would, as that would also have let them know that Cosmic is a potential source for other stuff (like the bio-nanites he used) and that he’s a contact worth cultivating. But – oh well!

I was pleased though that while we were at this part of the run, that Jez/Aswon made some OOC comments as things ‘clicked for him, and he correctly identified that it was Ruso that the enemy had kidnapped, and tried to blackmail Cosmic with, and that for the obvious affection that was on display between them, that was the justification for biblical levels of revenge – so at least one player definitely “got it”.
But, they got through the meeting ok, got an offer for a potential job in the future depending on timing, and got out without any diplomatic incidents.

We got through the travel ok, found a place to wait outside Paris and did some bribery with truffles when they discovered they didn’t have any local hard currency, and then made the drop off for the Eagle ok – and now they’re on the way to Eindhoven to get surgery for Marius.
Next week will be wrapped up with his upgrades in an abstract way – Lee/Marius unfortunately can’t be at the session, so he’ll mostly be unconscious and being operated on, and it will be the rest of the team that get the interaction – and I’ll have to see what dodgy experiments can be hinted at in the 2nd Delta Clinic they get to visit.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Tuesday 8/2/2061, Location: 45.13486, 29.43432, Time 15:00
2. Flying across Danube Delta, heading north to Iasi, 282km to go. Low level farmland, large agri-corps, moderate security, plenty of automation. Crumbling concrete developments, legacy of the soviet influence. Some areas with families out working 100 acre fields by hand, with horse and cart.
3. Landing in a field near the road, spirit concealment up. Spot kids playing games in the landing spot, look around for alternatives - a field round the back of Lidl. Spot the dilapidated shed, and a couple of donkeys sticking their heads out - Aswon paranoid about them... are they canon donkeys. Critters roll - no, they look mundane. Badly treated, mangy - but normal.
4. Discussion about who is going - Marius because it's his contact, Kai, Shimazu. Team get in discrete armour. Ask Marius if he can conceal the gun in the chest compartment - no, he'd have to take armour off to get it out, and he didn't intend to do that.
5. Aswon gets Tads to make some carrots / greenery. Aswon feeds the donkey, Tads tries to treat. Diseased and debilitated, not injured. Tads cure disease + sterilise. Water trough full of slime - Aswon tries to fix, gets Hunter to advise over commlink, 10 on engineering.
6. Rest of team head down the street for 10 mins, get to the wasteland. Make the call. "Yes" "This is Kai, we have a delivery for you." "Ah, wait there, someone with you soon."
7. Spot two guys in jackets walking, guns sticking out the bottom, police car passes no action. Led up the street to the villa.
8. get to street address, call, arrange meeting nearby, safehouse. Escorted in to meet Cosmic - lots of Romanian heavies, armed with machine pistols and subtle body armour, see police car go past and ignore armed men - obviously paid off, but not in any one org-crime outfit.
9. Mosaic floor, wide staircase, gestured into library to meet Cosmic.
10. Cosmic - Short, slightly below average weight and build, non-descript brown eyes. A few pock marks from childhood acne, but no other marks or scars. Non-descript generally, he's not particularly charismatic, and has a somewhat nervous looking smile
11. Waved in, offered coffee. Thug brings in, Cosmic does good host routine.
12. Kai compliments on mosaic. In the family for generations, used to be farmers. Now do other business - and farming. Speaking of business - pulls gun out very slowly and carefully.
13. Perception checks from team - Kai spots a wince of pain, Shimazu spots a certain level of tenseness.
14. Examines the 1911 after putting gloves on, then asks Kai if this is the first time. Gets out the plastic bag, seals it off, explains. Kai apologies, explains speed and astral protection.
15. Door slam, Ruso comes in, Cosmic lights up, description. Ruso introductions, smiles, greets everyone. Why have we only got the cheap biscuits, I would have worn something nice. Cosmic finishes payment - 30k.
16. Kai - "this task, hopefully completed to your satisfaction, we put a fake into the cabinet. We have info for the other items and security.
17. Ruso comes in with nice biscuits, offers them around, then apologies for interruptions and sits on edge of desk, gently stroking Cosmic. Kai checks with Marius, then lays out the penetration, details of the Guerrillas, pictures of the other items.
18. Ruso moue of disinterest. Cosmic very interested, looks through, asks for more details, especially on fake.
19. Cosmic - are you up for some more work?
20. Kai - we're on a schedule, have some stuff across Europe. Cosmic - how long do you need? Kai - maybe a month
21. Cosmic - eugh, maybe too long. I desire the stuff. If I get replicas could you repeat the trick? Kai - maybe. Depending on timing. Kai - need to discuss with the team. Cosmic - can offer 200k, if that helps your discussion.
22. Aswon - happy to go again, even if they have discovered the tunnel, we can go again and try to do a non-lethal insertion.
23. Tads - potentially we can tunnel in from wherever we land if we're not as short of time.
24. Kai - yes, I think we can do that - nobody saying no. Kai asks for contact details, hands over a card with encryption details and rfid chip.
25. Shimazu read on body language - very much in love. Cosmic is much more energised by Ruso's presence.
26. Escorted out, guards take them to the courtyard. Grey and miserable, drizzly.
27. About 16:30
28. Kai asks Marius if he wants to contact Halys to let him know mission complete. Marius says he will take care of it.
29. Team have silly discussion about taking the donkeys. Marius says he's happy to leave anyone behind so they can have their seat...
30. Marius good takeoff.
31. Swiss border for 20:00, smooth as silk after some NotE flying. Getting into France for about 9:15, so have time to kill.
32. Aswon - maybe contact them see if they can take the eagle earlier, there's more traffic to hide in. Suggest Kai to call and discuss.
33. Kai calls, Pierre does not answer. Head to some farm land 30km south of Paris. Hunter navigation check - spots the Aerodrome de Melun Villaroche, Marius keen on a decent runway, divert there. Hunter speaks French, arranges landing clearance. Thierry - offers to help with the paperwork - 800 Nuyen. Meet him on the apron. confused about doors. Has very basic flight details for a training flight from a neighbouring area. Can you take credstick? Non! 1000 francs. We're traders, have some other stuff - truffles. Asks to see, tastes, tests, oui! How many do you have? Hand over a jar full. They ask for fuel, - no fuel, External company. Get details, but they will be closed.
34. Swap details. Refuel from barrels.
35. Try Pierre at the airport again, he answers but sounds stressed. you are early! confirms he will not be ready until 12:30
36. Team chill for a while, do some running, clean kit, stretch legs, eat etc.
37. Hunter search on stuff about art theft. Nothing about art theft - but news of an art dealers that went up with a major blaze
38. Midnight, head into Paris, land at air-taxi spots cordoned off, small team waiting with a large box - team check, not warded.
39. Team go to move in, then wait as the size of the bird hits, and the engines are too dangerous.
40. Meet Pierre, Kai goes out, asks about the package. Wave the zoo team over, Kai mentions that it is a female, some acclimatation for feeding. "Maybe it won't be so much of a bitch" - mention the medication and extensive feeding. Transfer the bird ok, Pierre sends a text to Ganesh "Package arrived, release funds." Kai also texts, confirms that paperwork is being sorted by him. offers to get future critters for him. The team head back to the bird, take off nicely, head towards the border and Eindhoven.
41. End-ex

Kren Cooper
No game this week unfortunately, so no update to the story / plot. We had two players down, which is my normal threshold for not running - and especially as one of them is Marius, and he's going in for the surgery - well, that just felt like something he should be at the table for!

Hopefully normal service resumed next week.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 226 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Finally arriving at Eindhoven, the team landed at the airport and found a fairly hefty corporate presence – lots of firepower sitting there, and a reminder that the corps have resources that just boggle the mind. This hopefully also made them think about the town, and how controlled by Ares it was likely to be (though not to the same extent as Detroit where their HQ is, which really was a company town). It should also make sense to them that this is where the black clinic is, where it can be tightly controlled and regulated, and protected by the corporate assets available against rival corps and organisations.

Once they were in and suitably informed of the amount of firepower / resource available, then they got to hurry up and wait a bit – first overnight, until their contact came to load Marius up into the ambulance, and then some more while he was off for surgery. And, this time I went with their ‘liaison officer’ being unhelpful and abrupt, denying them access to anything but the one room and the basic facilities available.

I’d rolled up the results of the surgery before hand, and got some weird rolls – I’d gone with 3d6 hours for the surgery, and then rolled 1,1,2 – so it was a remarkably short operation! Maybe the nanites dissolving his old cyberware had done a *most* excellent job in their preparation, or the surgeon was just *that* good. I also got a thoroughly amazing roll for the magical healing – the surgery did 9 boxes of damage in total, based on the essence cost and scope, but the Bear Shaman doing the post operative care pulled out a massive handful of 6’s from their heal cast, so even a low-essence mook like Marius still got healed for 6 boxes – so he was entirely viable as a pilot on the way north to Gronigen.
For anyone curious, the package that Marius has ended up with is as follows:
  • Ares Genesis Drive by Wire package - VCR+Wired reflexes 1 (software updateable), GPS, Smartlink-2, Commlink - Essence 7, Delta 3.5, Surgery options 3.15
  • Ares Genesis Datajacks, Essence 0.5 - multiple IO ports along all major limbs+spine, large router
  • Ares Genesis Carapace – Dermal sheath rating 1

The overall aesthetic I was looking at was the ports and connectors that Neo has when he gets disconnected in the Matrix. Long term, Ares will provide a funky vehicle to the team much later in the campaign, and this will require the Genesis control package to get best performance from – so it’s setting up a slow burn reward for the team assuming that future missions go well.

They also discovered that Marius is actually somewhat downgraded at the moment (and there was strangely enough little dismay / chuntering about this). His systems are still adjusting to implantation, and will slowly upgrade, gaining stats and becoming more potent over time. In much the same was as Aswon can invest 5 karma into his spear and upgrade its powers, or Kai can pay 5 karma to gain better voice control over people, this is the “campaign special” for Marius, and provides a custom bit of cyber that combines both a VCR and Wired reflexes, while acting a bit like the Move-By-Wire cyberware introduced in man and machine.

With that out of the way, they headed north to stage before their next journey and mission part, finding a nice place to settle down in for the night and relax, before we go critter hunting in the deep forest, looking for “War-Bears”
I’m thinking Bears with adaptive colouration, ambush predators (maybe even dropping from trees – let’s steal from Australia and make it *even more dangerous* for a novel twist), with hardened armour and either regeneration or large amounts of pain resistance, big powerful creatures with large claws that can provide plenty of reach and a serious challenge to the team. There has to be a good reason why they’re not generally hunted, and someone is willing to pay more than 40 grand for some body parts, after all!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 9/2/2061, Location: 50.34835, 4.38236, Time 01:00
2. Just crossed the FR/UNL border, 165km to go, heading down to Eindhoven airport, wind 5knots at 090, 3000m paved, full ILS on runway 03
3. At the airport - sensor check, spot the ares
4. Full wing of 12 X Ares GCR-22S attack choppers, 5 X missiles
5. Full wing of 12 X Ares Penetrator XV (same as they saw in Cal-free), 7 X missiles
6. 6 X Ares Dragon
7. 3 X Ares Firebird
8. 2 X Ares TR-55C and 1 X TR-55E
9. 2 X Ares FX400 heavy lift transports
10. Land, escorted to hanger, park up and can refuel at cost (2534km travelled,12163NY) . Told to wait until 08:00 for Liaison officer to arrive. Pair of armed sentries guarding the craft, standard body armour and Ares Alpha.
11. Special flight 15, refuels ok. Ask for toilet and food. Food is nasty corporate cafeteria - limp chips and bendy hot dogs.
12. 02:00 Germaine's dossier arrives
13. Aswon - Hunter, you were on the money with that fire report
14. Hunter wants to head out for training, goes outside to speak to troops. Troops at port arms. Can I help you sir - can we exercise? No, stay on the bird. Just thought I'd ask.
15. Kai - can we make calls? Confused look, checks BFT, no instructions either way, advise to not reveal info about the base, but otherwise go ahead.
16. Aswon - want to discuss this dossier? Team - no, sleep. A - mmm. Anyone heard of dice? No? Team just want to get some sleep.
17. "Greetings pineapples" - codeword for Marius that he's under coercion.
18. Liaison officer is Mr Van Dott (3 points of cyber, brown hair, green eyes, slender build, Ares suit and pins, full eyes+ears package+headware. Allowed into the officers mess to wait, while Marius goes for surgery in an ambulance (WNG/jammer), start sedation.
19. Kai asks to go with (denied) or get a live feed (denied) or to know how long (shrugs, variable). Kai - any instructions for Nadia if it all goes wrong? Marius - I expect you to take care of things, satisfactorily.
20. Mr Van Dott escorts Marius outside to waiting ambulance - Aswon assenses just in case, through F6 ward. No windows, but Marius tries to memorise journey as part of a mental exercise.
21. Van Dott comes back to team, asks for nothing bigger than a sidearm, grab their personal gear and come with him.
22. Hunter asks for training again - Van Dott says no, sorry.
23. Hunter starts learning Dutch. Asks Aswon for help. They find daytime talk show to watch, along with news. Does not take long...both get successes
24. Ambulance getting close, med monitors, pre-med, just a sharp scratch. Locks posessions away, crew still being professional.
25. Team start looking at the dossier. Kai - checks antiques, not a known painter or painting. Check frames.
26. Aswon doesn't go into details of the fire to avoid upsetting tads. Start evaluating the info, checking smuggling routes and border procedures etc.
27. Discuss smuggler stop up in the mountains of iran, putting the word out, maybe try to find via Dice, checking smuggling routes, border procedures,
28. Kai theories - possible boat in / out, or a mix, but range of travel. Limited ground routes based on area. Tads suggests going down astrally - but need to sleaze through the wards - Aswon points out trail is 4 days old. Tads thinks - also, they don't like Shamans, against Muslim ideology.
29. Kai send messages to Germaine. Was the team via a particular broker? Is there a rival for this painting - personal or professional? Do you have any details on the original artist, and what they are doing right now?
30. Tads asks to go back - Van Dott a bit put out, she explains that she has stuff that can't be moved. Guards take her back, and she does spell design.
31. Kai asks Hunter to do basic search on the artist. It was their breakthrough piece of art, quantum leap ahead of previous stuff. Regarded as their most emotive piece they did.
32. Weird discussion about getting a bird as a mascot (Aswon), discussion about penguins, bombay ducks, Hunter votes for peking ducks,
33. About 13:00, Mr Van Dott gets a call, surgery done, on the way back. About 13:30, asks the team to get ready to go back to hanger as the ambulance is nearly here.
34. Perception check - spot waxy skin, arm and leg jacks. Assense - less essence, drugged, magically healed.
35. Mr VD - so, you'll want some time to decompress, so say I'll give you 30 mins to sort yourself and then call the tower for clearance
36. Aswon - what - with him flying? He's our pilot? Mr VD - you don't have a 2nd pilot? Team grumbles.
37. Tads asks for instructions - they should come via message
38. Check Marius over and get details of his skin and extra datajacks. Work out it's a "downgrade" to VCR 1, synaptic accelerators have disappeared.
39. Tads wonders if he can control multiple things now all at the same time, instead of one thing really well.
40. Message arrives with post-operative instructions, rest for 24 hours then do strenuous activity, hydrate and eat as well as possible.
41. After 30 mins, doors open, ground crew come to escort out - why rotors not turning?
42. Hunter very hesitant about flying, Marius - get out of the way, does a smooth takeoff.
43. Plot course, looking for hotel with helipad, - Gronnigen, Hilton hotel has a helipad and rooms available. Executive suite for 1500 per night. +1000 per night for the helipad. +500 per additional person after 2.
44. Aswon and Hunter check, has a hot-tub, they're in favour.
45. Marius check - 30-40% capacity on data links.
46. Kai spots all the "extras" and they discuss the price again., look elsewhere. Leekstemeer villa, next to lake, large grounds, 2k per night. Book that instead
47. Land at guildmeet+ location.
48. Sophie Van Rutugen. Gives them the tour, orders food in,
49. Hunter offers to run a diagnostic on Marius. Tads says to call Nadia and Aswon agrees.
50. Hunter cyber-technology roll, one success. Ares datajack Mk2 - triple capacity.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 227 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
A nice simple one this week – a bit of R&R for most of the team while Marius adjusted to his new cyberware (and he seemed very happy that it had gone back up to a VCR2 as the software adjusted!), before they set off to the north. I realised that I’d probably let them rest a bit further north than I should have, as I hadn’t plotted in the location of the Black Tide – as reading up on it, one of the arcoblocks in the area is called “Gronigen”. Ah well, at least that’s one of the nice things about Shadowrun, is that pretty much everywhere you look, the attitude of “hey, it’s your world and your game, change what you want” was very much a thing. So I drew on the area for the tide around that part of the Netherlands – figuring that if there was anyone around Europe that knows about dams, dykes, preventative action and saving your country from the ravages of the see – it’s the Dutch.

With that sorted out of course, we got to fly into the toxic shitstain that is the North Sea post Black Tide, giving the magically active members of the team good reason not to be keeping an eye out – though Tads has made a careful note of the area and some landmarks as another good place to run through if trying to lose an astral tail!

And then we got onto the “random encounter” I had planned for them.
I quite like watching a number of aviation channels on You-tube, including 74 Gear. I was eating breakfast the other day, just watching a random video – in which a barely qualified solo pilot took off, and lost part of her gear during the process. The video covers what happens, how they were supported by the staff at the airport and how they got her back down onto ground safely.
Video is here if you’re curious:

And I thought – hmm – that might make a good random thing. Oh look, a really nasty bit of terrain to cross, that would be awful to ditch in. Where the “easy” option is to just ignore the mayday and fly on, leaving her to her fate – but with no karma for the team. And the “medium” option is to escort them towards Germany, and watch as Marius climbs the wall with paranoia. And the slightly “harder” option is to turn round a pilot with no instruments and a half-broken plane, and escort them all the way home at a slow crawl and talk them down to the airport.

So, kudos to the characters for doing the “right thing”, and helping out the random person in distress, costing themselves a little fuel and a chunk of time – and some questions to be asked in the next game (not that it’s going to slow them down much, they can just take off without permission and pretty much disappear under spirit concealment and back into the tide, after all.

It was interesting to see them planning the rescue though when they were over the tide, and magic suddenly became SO much harder for them, and they were getting all “international rescue” coming up with ideas about dangling people out of the back, parachuting over etc.

It’d actually expected the team to discuss and then for Marius to do some “crazy pilot shit” and bring the tilt wing in at point blank range over the Cessna, and for someone to do a leap down onto the plane – probably Aswon, as he’s normally up for the crazy stuff. Once they had one of their own onboard, even with no practical flight experience, setting up a mind link between them, or even just having highly intelligent local hands and eyes on the plane would have made for an easy landing. But the approach they went with worked out ok, and they got her down safely – so bonus mission accomplished, and they’ll all get an extra point or two of karma for helping her out.

I’ve also spent a bit of time working on my “Carpathian Bears” stat block, and have come up with this:
Carpathian Bears - about 1.75m high at the shoulders, 4m when stood on hind legs, weighing 650-675kg.Bark coloured mottled fur
Powers: Enhanced Physical Attribute (Str, E X 2D6 turns), Enhanced Reactions, Enhanced senses (Thermo, Hearing, Electrical disruption), Adaptive Colouration, Concealment, Quick strike
Standard bear: B11, Q4 X5, S14, C0, I2/4, W4, E6, R3(11), CP10, Init 2d6+6, Attacks 9D half armour, Reach +1, Pain resistance 5. KP 5
Grizzled bear: B15, Q5 X5, S16, C0, I3/6, W5, E6, R4(12), CP12, Init 3d6+8, Attacks 10D half armour, Reach +2, Pain resistance 8. KP 10, Quick strike

I’m thinking of having them drop from trees onto the team for a surprise attack, and that the enhanced strength might come as a nasty surprise when someone takes a big hit. And Shimazu is going to get the shock of his life when the bear uses *its* quick strike to gazump him at the top of the turn order and make him have a fair fight. At least that’s what I’m hoping…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Thursday 10/2/2061, Location: 53.17521, 6.42418, Time 08:00
2. Test for Marius healing. Kai+Shimazu vs extended care - none, both RR, 3 between them, Marius vs Body/Willpower - one success, heal one box in 12 hours, down to 2 boxes
3. Make clear that another night in the hostel will be good for healing, but not essential - may want to stay. Check date, nothing on the schedule that is fixed - Tads reminds they have Amusement park to do, and a Horror.
4. Kai - what do we do first - the other team? That's on the way.
5. Aswon - that is likely to be way past Crimea, so probably not doing Cosmic's job - too expensive on fuel. Seems to recall an armoured unit went looking for them, didn't come back.
6. Talk about hunting the bear, memory check for Marius on what parts are needed: Claws, teeth, bones and hearts
7. Staying overnight, monster body check from Marius - all healed up. VCR settles in at rating 2, wires still 1.
8. Tads suspects needs time for new skin to attach to his frame, and get enough flexibility. Aswon gets right on Marius' case, pushes him hard
9. Friday 11th, 08:00. Villa owner tries to persuade them to stay another night, they turn down.
10. Check the exotic vet chip - get some details - hard armour (but not hardened maybe) weight, height, fur colour, thick chitinous,
11. Talking about weapons options, putting AV in the HMGs, panther cannons, Hunter using rifle as Aswon will be in melee with Shimazu. Paracritters roll for Aswon, interpret dry technical language - not territorial. Aswon - argh, bad, hard to track. double argh - might be social. Look for sedative that might be ingestible, as shooting past the armour might not be feasible.
12. Kai asks Shimazu how he thinks they should organise the hunt / attack. Aswon dives in - don't ask Elk for direct magical help hunting vs other animals. Maybe buffs only. Ohh - hang on, claw - clippings? Don't kill, just trim them all. Asks Tads opinion - Tads, it's a little harsh, I don't think Elk would like us planning the assault.
13. Heading north, out over the black tide, Kai on the sensors. BGC of at least 3, feels sick, physically 2 up front see the morass and all kinds of nasty
14. Tads and Aswon discuss Talismongering notes - would clippings work? Yes, but lower strength. Probably several grand for clippings, but some higher strength stuff might want the full thing. Kai thinks about magical societies, some would value it, but he doesn't know which.
15. Tads thinks not making steak, but pineapple, go for sweet foods to be really appealing and unusual
16. Flying east, sensor check for Marius. Out over the black tide, bypassing Germany, heading around to Russian occupied Poland
17. Cessna 488, mayday call, one engine down, lost all digital flight instruments. Low range radio comms. Squawk 7700 Melanie, solo pilot, 30 hours flight experience, only just passed solo cert, bird strike, very shaky.
18. About 20klicks from mayday, Marius adjusts course to intercept.
19. Tads wonders how deep it is, whether she can bring earth up to meet it. Nothing to land on for ages. Get a visual, would seat about 10. Kai asks for souls on board, confims she is a solo.
20. Black smoke pouring out of the engine, yaw and pitch, inconsistent course. Marius calls over to shut down damaged engine. Instructor / charisma test - doesn't help/hinder, she's on the edge of full blown panic. Marius tries to get her to calm down, without success. Kai takes over, trying to use commanding voice - but at least be calm / collected. Do get her calmed down, find out her lack of experience. Get her turned around towards Denmark, Marius slows and gets in front of her, leads her on course.
21. Tads - she has no windscreen, I can try to get her and levitate her if we can get close and slow down enough.
22. Kai - if we can get her to land, we can maybe talk her down. Need alternate plan to get her out if the plane breaks up. Marius wants to know if they have rigger controls - no, datajack only, she does not want to plug in, sparking. She is unsure on fuel status, Kai asks if she's smuggling anything - No! Team ponder about getting a parachute to her - they have no rope/winch.
23. Aswon - plan to check for landing gear, see if it works at all, for tads to levitate, Marius to slam on brakes. Tads gets binoculars. Kai looking out the back with parachute on, spare on the front. Shimazu joins him, for when Kai fucks it up...
24. Ease her up from 400m to a more reasonable height, aiming for about 1000m.
25. Melanie was flying from airstrip in Denmark to Hamburg. Team call back to original airstrip on sat-phone, Kai tries in English. gets through, divert to Faaborg, basic runway and tower, fire appliances. Airstrip to east in farmland, near forestry. Check from Marius to lead her down. Her gear does not come down, thinking about belly landing, or trying to drop manually. Hydraulics are out, she doesn't sound confident, team not sure if she can multitask.
26. Thinking about sending Tads over again, now out of the black tide.
27. Kai asks does she know where the landing gear manual control is, she says it's already down, panicky argument. Pulls the lever, nosecone and starboard wheels to drop, port side does not open. Kai - can we send the spirit to pull down the port side. She panics, hearing the spirit trying to pull open the hatch - port cover opened, wheel drops. Hunter has examples of the cockpit layout, get what the handle probably looks like - sends spirit over. Wheel looks flat, but not a lot they can do about it.
28. Local tower get on to backup radio, start to talk her down, get teams presence explained. Marius now comfortable to do a handover - but stays with her. They start to talk her down, wobbly glide slope, but best as they can get. Tads has F3 (guard) and 5 X 5 spirits resummoned now and helping the plane to land. Team start to clean up their bird visibly in case they get inspected. Landing sequence, all fraught, Tads sends spirits away, plane collapses. Eventually tell the team to STOL land on the remaining runway, away from the crash.
29. Fin.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 228 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:

So after last weeks little bit of altruism in rescuing the poor Cessna pilot and her stricken bird, I wanted to turn the tables on the players a tiny bit. They were expecting (and not unreasonably) at least a warm welcome and a chance to refuel a bit maybe, get some maps or info, and generally get some kudos for what they’d done.

Instead though, they were going to get the shitty end of the stick, as the Danish authorities realised that a completely unknown aircraft had just “appeared” well inside their airspace, a *military* aircraft by all accounts – and just when the Danish government were convening a special session to discuss terrorist threats in Copenhagen, only 160km away – which for the team to cover would be only a few minutes flight time. That was the “reason” behind what was going to happen, at least – a heightened state of alert generally for the country, completely unknown to the players, and then their appearance triggering a spike of concern.

And then, because Kai sometimes doesn’t always consider his words carefully, when someone headed towards the aircraft, he warns them that there’s a biohazard and chance of infection. To policemen sent to investigate the possible terrorist incursion. For whom English is not their first language.

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. As soon as Fozzy (Kai) got that out of his mouth, I asked the players to pause for a moment, and all they could hear was the rapid fire machine-gun as I frantically made some notes (I have an old mechanical keyboard from the 90s) before then having the team make perception and psychology tests to realise that something had just gone horribly wrong, before quickly moving things along as the situation spiralled out of control – or at least peaceful control. I had no doubt that the locals were well and truly screwed once they got insistent – it was just a case of how firepower the team were going to throw and how much of a forensic nightmare they’d leave behind to haunt them later.
But, they made good decisions, got some lucky / good rolls, got away from the interceptor aircraft as quickly as possible and didn’t make any silly mistakes, and soon we were on our way to Poland.

As they were plotting the route towards the Tatras, I checked on the map and then had to try very hard not to smile as I realised that they’d steered themselves on a route that would pretty much over-fly Auschwitz. As they’d already had one such encounter before in Japan, I got people to make some rolls on skills that might clue them in – and fortunately Kai redeemed himself by getting a stupendous roll here, where both Hunter, Aswon and Marius all failed – so he got to warn them about what was coming.

As they approached, I pasted a number of pictures into the Discord chat to give an overall impression of the mountains and the area
In my reading up on the area, I’d also found out that a massive storm hit the place in 2004, causing huge amounts of damage to the forests and people living in the area. So, I decided to shunt forward a copy of this event to the back end of 2060, to give them something else to deal with on their mission.

I used several of the pictures from to give an over-view and in the description of ghost villages and dropped forests, again mostly for scene-setting.
When they get round to hunting for bears, rather than a pine forest with room to move under the lower boughs, and lots of clear-ish ground to give reasonable sight lines, instead there will be a tangled mess of trees at all angles, creating a complex climbing frame that will be ideally suited to helping the bears hunt the team as much as the team hunts the bears…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Friday 11/2/2061, Location: 55.10681, 10.25202, Time 10:30
2. The 4 X 4 approaches, 2 cops, driver, +casual. Aksel approaches, he gets dirty looks from cops who get out. Team has unwarded side door open
3. Kai asks if they want to see IDs, driver nods, police flanking, hands on pistols. Aksel approaches briskly. "There's a chance of infection in there! Wouldn't go near it!" Cops draw their weapons "get down on the ground" - Kai complies. Shimazu in doorway, Aswon watching. Sees muttering, Shimazu sees him saying "frak, that's fraked it!" Kai adds "one of my team has just had surgery, they may be prone to infection!"
4. Shimazu psychology test - Aksel is more worried about the cops than the team. Aura reading - cops have a tiny bit of cyber, major anxiety. Shimazu steps out, hands raised, claims they are doctors, friend had an operation.
5. Aksel comes round, says "they've called Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET), get out of here!" Aswon says in Russian "we may need to get out of here in a hurry, Marius ready for dustoff, tads we need a stunball." Tads - not happy, would leave spell signature behind.
6. Shimazu - "you don't want to do this, we're getting back on the plane, don't interfere, or one of you is going to die. Whine of engine triggers reaction, cop #1 shoots Shimazu, nearly all dodge, soaked easily.
7. Tads, Stunball F5, Serious.
8. Officer and coppers both drop instantly - Aksel takes a serious, Shimazu and Kai are fine.
9. Tads starts cleansing. Shimazu pulls Kai up and shoves to the door. Shimazu then clears the guns and puts the safety on. Kai goes to Aksel - police? Soon? "Yes! Soon! Thankyou! Go!!!" Kai goes to give him a card, Shimazu intercepts and takes it.
10. Radio call "you don't have permission to take off, power down immediately" Marius ignores and powers up.
11. Marius handling check, police car comes bouncing over the turf towards them
12. Firefighters think about foaming them, doesn't, just watches them go.
13. Tads summons new spirits, concealment and guard.
14. Marius drops to wave level, EDs to full, change colour to look like sea-water, Tads offers a flat plane illusion above them if they're that low. As starting to cast it, realise they're entering the black tide.
15. Fighter gets close on full afterburner, radar on max flux, gets a 20 + 15, but not quite enough to overcome EDs.
16. About 10mins of very worried flying, before they get too close to Germany, but 2nd+3rd jet start, then turn back.
17. Gain altitude as they get closer to Poland, just short of 1 hour flight time
18. Team discusses if anyone has contacts - Kai, safe house broker only person who might have a place. Decide not to call that in. Aswon looks at map for likely locations in the Carpathian mountains - Skolivski Beskydy National Park - edge of the Tatra Mountains to the south, northern end of the country is a wasteland. Plot a course down there, which will take them over Auschwitz. Checks for Marius and Aswon as being most familiar with the area - no hits.
19. Cross the border into Poland, industrial wasteland, trashed by the war and occupation.
20. Kai checks smuggler route - EXCELLENT roll, picks up on Auschwitz and a thriving trade in artifacts from the site for toxic / violent spells. Plot route well around it.
21. View of mountains posted in, search roll for hunter on the way down
22. Learn about temps, snowfall, storms, abandoned villages, deforestation.
23. Heading to a lake, clear areas around, land and look for firewood. About twenty below, will increase time for tasks and maintenance. About 1500m elevation.
24. 1pm landing time. Tads takes the time to make a raised landing area and ramp to the back ramp.
25. Check around the lake for prints of critters - survival check, don't spot much around the lake. Shimazu (traceless walk) - ground is too frozen solid for decent tracks - not impossible, but much harder than usual.
26. Kai asks what types of spirits tads can summon - sky, lake, mountain, forest. Can they help search for bears? Maybe - depends in the bears are magically active/aware, they might kill the searching spirits.
27. Bear hunting party - Shimazu, Aswon, Kai, Tads,
28. Talk about the blimp - cold will lower performance on the batteries / performance of electrical systems. Aswon suggests alter temperature on the drone. Kai asks for a sensor sweep in the area. Scan shows all quiet. Sat phone is fine, no phone signal. Kai suggests using the last 2 hours of light for a drone scan of the area - check with Marius, drone does have thermo.
29. Alter temp spell, F7, 5 success, +15 degrees, effective -5, off the drone goes.
30. Sensor check on the condor - 3, feeds info back to the team, survival+critters rolls,
31. Creatures: bears, wolves, eurasian lynx, wildcat, tatra chamois, bison, golden eagle.
32. Tads perception check as she's watching the drone/spell. Sends F5 air spirit to defend the drone. Confusion. Tads warns Marius.
33. Tads suggests a dawn recon as well, just to confirm
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 229 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
First of all, I’d worked on two quick random charts for determining the weather here, and the possible critters to run into once they made it into the woods, with a check every hour or two.
Weather -
Precipitation 1-2 Storm, 3-5 Rain, 6 Clear
Wind 1 Storm, 2-3 Strong, 4-5 Mild, 6 Still
Temp Negative 30+(5Xd6)

Critter random rolls
1 - Wolves
2 - Lynx
3 - Nothing
4 - Nothing
5 - Chipmunk critters
6 - bears

While they are out by the lake, I was happy for them to just be – there’s no real activity in the area, and nothing would happen to them other than environmental stuff. Even a major storm was unlikely to bother them too much – with a few minutes notice, Tads can effectively build an earth/rock igloo around them and cover them to protect them from even the worst weather now. Shape earth and a high-level caster for the win!
I also had no particular requirement for how soon or how late they should encounter the Bears – after some time constrains and pressure on them previously, I felt it was time to give them some breathing room and let them slow down a little if they wanted to – after all, that will then allow me to pile the pressure on them again later and have them really feel it!

They have other jobs and tasks of course – the one for Germaine being the most pressing, but even there a few days either way shouldn’t make any real difference.
I’d hoped that both Hunter and Marius would come with the hunting team, to keep them all together and stop people being bored back at base camp – but they seemed fairly determined to stay there. Sometimes I will railroad the players and force them into doing stuff, but normally I try and limit that to when it really makes sense IC to do so, rather than for OC reasons. So, if those two players decide to stay back at the tilt-wing, then I’m content (not happy – but content) to let them do so, and from my POV, they have accepted at least part of the responsibility for not having as much plot / game involvement as the other players.

With that said, I tried to keep things moving along with the hunting team, moving them from one encounter to another and cracking on with the action. Even so, it was getting close to our normal finishing time when the Bear encounter was rolled up – so I was watching carefully when we ran through the ambush and surprise round. The players were *very* fortunate here in that the Bears got a bit of a rubbish roll for the ambush itself, allowing both Aswon and Shimazu to get some reaction strikes in and actually manage to kill one of the Bears in that first round – which is going to really alter the odds in the main fight, and when the first bear reinforcements arrive.

Balancing that out somewhat, their mage and main healer is on a moderate wound, and Kai is on a serious – and is down to his last point of good karma, so it’s looking a lit bit dicey from his POV! The team also went through 7 re-rolls between them in the space of about 20 minutes as it all got a bit “in their face”. Aswon/Jez in particular choked somewhat when the Bears were hitting the team for 9D armour piercing – though he had to admit that if anything was going to rend through personal armour, a 2.5m high, 675kg bear would be a good target for that ability.

So – next week we’ll be straight into combat – and I’m *really* looking forward to the look on Tom/Shimazu’s face when he uses his Quick Strike power to jump to the top of the initiative order and get first go… and then the “grizzled” bear variation uses the same power to gazzump him. I don’t think it will win combat against him – but it might give him a wakeup call!!!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Weather for today is...4,4,4 = Rain, mild wind from the south, -10C, Justin mentioned that they were all doomed for rolling the same result three times in a row…
2. Tads fixes the Photo-voltaics on the hull from the Danish cops shooting at them – tiny bullet holes using fix spell.
3. Kai thinks about selling the interceptor data from Denmark on Shadowland. Hunter - probably not, not getting locked up on radar, not enough useful data - but might help gain kudos.
4. Tads - also worth getting hold of Aksel to find out what was going wrong? Hunter search on Aksel Sorensen and Melanie to find out contact details. Sorenson flight training, small micro site on a Nokia account. Melanie social media - only qualified about a week before encounter.
5. Hunter, does more diagnostics on Marius to establish a baseline. VCR settled, wires still needs work - needs the stress reaction.
6. Kai - armour and weather proofing, bow+selection of arrows, weapon foci.
7. Tads - quick astral recon, most of the critters are staying in the forest. Marius sensor check - confirms, thermal sigs somewhat washed out. Weather not helping, but can see 6-10 groups that might be bear sized - or groups of small creatures. Aswon asks if its worth doing another day of observations - but low cloud cover limits options.
8. Kai - can we do recon with little spirits - Tads, might get murdered, depend on what magical critters are about, may alert the bears and other critters.
9. Marius - will have the vector thrust on standby, probably only <2min response time
10. Hunter plot route between the three most likely targets, Aswon look at making a shelter for Hunter outside to keep him warm and dry (meh roll)
11. Critter roll = 2 - lynx, stealth 14, team got 11s (tads and aswon), others nothing. Sense of being watched. walking through awful terrain.
12. Marching order = Shimazu, Aswon, Tads then Kai.
13. Kai reaction check - 1, it only gets 1, Lynx jumps at the quiver and grabs some arrows, Kai dodges. Tads assenses - paracritter, but not spirit
14. Roll init - Aswon 22, Shimazu 21, Tad 9, Kai - NA, Lynx 14 - slice as it tried to go mist form, magic background checks. Aswon starts to scoop up, rest of pack attack. First goes for Shimazu, gets spitted, 2nd goes for Kai hits but soaked, 3rd Aswon - it takes an L, 4th Aswon, it takes an M, 5th and final...also Aswon. Hits for 5S, soaked. Aswon fights back - takes a 5m - takes Light-buys 1, full soak, Tads sidesteps, shielding on team and then drops a stunball. Casting F5 stunball Moderate, all the lynx go down, none of the team affected.
15. Tads - can we just leave them? Aswon - no, free money. Aswon considers - conversation mostly with himself about Elk, use of magic, self-defence. Kill the moderate wounded one - Aswon thanks the forest.
16. Tads heals Kai and the Light wound lynx, leave to recover off the path draped over a branch. Get the moderate and deadly one, and harvest for talismongering. Tads suggest keeping the mostly intact one as the "before" to go with the half mist form one.
17. Talismonger the dead one - get paws, ears and some other bits. Aswon asks Tads to do makeover to de-scent anyone covered in blood. Tads flash freezes the two corpses.
18. Next encounter - nothing, 1 hour searching - nothing. And again - nothing, now about 11am. Aswon stops team and listens really hard - nothing.
19. Onwards, next roll, Fozzy jokes, then rolls a 6 – suddenly Bears!
20. Small bears 4 on stealth, big bear 13! Perception checks
21. Shimazu 15, Marius 8, Tads 13, Kai 11, Aswon 11
22. Bear 1 - Aswon, 1 ambush, Aswon 2 - not surprised
23. Bear 2 - Tads, 2 ambush, Tads 2 -
24. GB 3 - Kai, 2 ambush, Kai none
25. Aswon stabs his, wins by 7, 11D, gets 2 success, takes a serious
26. Tads gets hit, takes an 8D, gets 1, RR, another 1,buy 2, take a moderate
27. Kai takes a massive hit, soaking 10D, none RR, 1, 2nd RR, gets 1 more, takes an S -
28. Shimazu quick strike on Aswon's bear - kills it.
29. End session at the end of the surprise round, just before we roll initiative for the fight versus the two remaining bears.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 230 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:

Well! Straight into combat this week, rolling initiative and having the bears which landed and damaged both Tads and Kai turning to engage Aswon and Shimazu. On random rolls, they both went for the bigger of the two, double-teaming Shimazu. Shimazu/Tom looked slightly surprised and then put out when the bear gazumped him with it’s quick strike and went first, and then the team realised they were in trouble with the size of the bears attack pool, and the damage that Shimazu took.
I had originally been planning on having 1 additional bear land into combat, to tie up one of the other players and limit the “friends in the melee” (FITM) options a little, but on seeing how the first soak roll went, I decided to skip that, and keep it in my back pocket, rather than have it join. Legitimately there was no way Marius or Hunter were going to get to the combat in time, and I felt that with the stats the bears had, it would have slid from just being a very dangerous encounter to something that would have wiped them out very rapidly. I could have gone with WP tests to stay conscious for someone, and have the bears drag the others off back to their lair perhaps, but while that might have worked, I didn’t want to roll the dice on that and lose 2-3 characters all in one encounter, just to bad luck.

So, with one bear pulled, and Shimazu feeling he had to take the super-duper combat drugs, it was time to have a serious fight.
The “X-49” combat drug is an experimental concoction from Ludmilla the mad scientist in Russia – a very unethical person who is all about the testing of drugs on people without consent and other such things.
The drug has the following SR3 stats: Gives +1D6 init, +4 strength, +2 reaction, pain resistance 5 for 1D6 minutes, -1 to any ranged attacks due to shaking. Melee hits against enemies also cause Str/2(M) against the user from muscle tears. When effects wear off, soak Str(S) on body, and take +1 "jitters" for 1D6X10 minutes to all actions. Highly addictive – 6M/6P, Tolerance 2, Edge 2/8, Fix 1 day

With this being the second dose that Shimazu had taken it was time to see if he’d gotten hooked – but that could wait until after combat. With his extra strength and pain resistance, it was just enough to turn the tide on combat and let him start to get some hits in that did damage on the bear, and whittle it down. It was still a very close run thing though, as both the bears had pain-resistance critter powers, so until they were very nearly dead, they operated without penalties.
I expected Tads to go for her signature massive stun-ball (the bears had low WP and would have dropped like sacks of spuds) but she was so worried about her wound and knocking herself out, that she felt she had to engage in HTH to try and play it safe – knowing she’d do no damage with her low strength, but helping with the FITM modifier.

With the odds tipped in their favour slightly, and blowing through 11 re-rolls between them, and about 5 good karma, they eventually triumphed. Shimazu now has no re-rolls left, and thus no hand of god, and Kai is down to 1 good karma, so he’s pretty close as well. They definitely know they’ve been in a fight, and are expecting a decent reward from this one!!

After that, it was a tidy up, some talismongering and getting away. One really high sensor check on the border meant that someone got a hit on them, so I figured the ski-resort might be a good flavour encounter for them – they’ve now added “ski-resorts” to their list of things to look for on border crossings, so that’s a thing…
Down to Bulgaria for the fuel at the stop they’ve used before, for a nice quiet and quick visit. If anyone is curious about the ponds of coloured water, if you do a Google Maps search for 42.56711, 27.48546, you can see what I was describing. I have no idea what they are in real life, but they look interesting, so I made them a feature of some corporate process that involves all kinds of icky chemicals from some uncaring corp. Because Shadowrun, yo.

After that, a nice simple run across the Black Sea, and off to go and meet Georgi and offload 300 kg of raw bear telesma. The bears were originally supposed to net them 43K, but I’m inclined to think they probably deserve a bit more that that – what do you all think? More Nuyen, or a favour, or some enchanting materials, or something else? Or give them my blackened stone heart and feast upon their tears?

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 12/2/2061, Location: 49.2349, 19.99965, Time 11:00
2. Summary from previous session: Kai S(P), Tads M(P), Aswon L(P), Shimazu - ok
3. Roll initiative: Shimazu 26, Big bear 20, Aswon 18, New bear 16, Small bear 13, Kai 12, Tads 4
4. Grizzled bear jumps to top: Both it and Shimazu use RR, both get 20 success, base hit on Shimazu, 10D half armour, gets 3 with RR, buys 1, takes an M.
5. Shimazu on 25 - WP test, fails injects compound X-49, +2 init, +2 reaction, pain resistance 5. Shimazu 11, Bear 9, it soaks, RR, gets 6, takes a Light
6. Aswon on 18s, hits 17, RR 18 hits, vs Bear 2. Bear gets 9!!! 6s, soaks entirely.
7. small bear on Shimazu on 13, 6 vs 10, soaks to an S
8. Marius turns off all safety protocols and max's everything on hearing the combat going badly
9. Kai shoots grizzled bear with Taser, 9s to hit into combat with wound modifiers, gets 1, rr, gets 4. Bear soaking 9d+9m, soaks to Serious stun, second shot misses
10. Tads (4) attacks with pole, getting FITM again, 1 rr 2, bear 2, 6m stun, soaked
11. Shimazu on 17s - hits 11, bear 4, soaks to a light wound
12. Grizzled bear back, 5 vs 8, takes 13s, takes an S
13. small bear, 1 vs 8, 14D to soak, takes a serious left forelimb off
14. Aswon on 8s, attacks grizzled, centering 2+attack 11, net 6, drops the grizzled bear.
15. Small bear on Shimazu, 2 vs 10, takes a serious, both down.
16. End of combat.
17. Shimazu soaking damage from muscle tears, takes 2 lights. Quivering and bruising appearing.
18. Tads starts drawing in mana for self-heal, Aswon checks the trees - look clear, Marius goes fast, but not crazy.
19. Tads gets 2 successes, drops her to a light, ignores from edge, now effectively fine. Moves on to Shiamzu, fixes all
20. Aswon first aid on Kai - takes him down to a moderate.
21. Tads moves on to Kai, fixes him to zero.
22. Drugs work for 2 minutes, so about 90 seconds left. Tads puts up resistance and detect magic. Aswon starts to dismember and talismonger.
23. Shimazu pulls out one of the grizzled bears biggest incisors.
24. Get an idea on the bears - quick strike, adaptive colouration+concealment.
25. Drugs wear off, 30 minute aftershocks, soaks damage to a Light from the last spasm,
26. No random encounter for 1 hour while the team talismonger.
27. Tads - rather than us walking back, can we get the tilt-wing to come to us and levitate the stuff and us up, to it.
28. Aswon checks up the trees for loot, just finds the jumping off point.
29. Back up and into the tilt-wing via levitate.
30. Kai calls smuggler stop in Bulgaria near coloured ponds for refuel, 160 degrees, 933 km. Marius calls Georgi - picks up, hellos, explains they have 3 bears, will be coming, still several hundred km away, asks to go to farm outside Tbilisi.
31. Shimazu gets one success on addiction test.
32. Fly down through Slovakia - straight over a radar station.
33. Tads offers to cast influence on Shimazu to help him resist. He thinks he needs to resist on his own, otherwise he's not worth it. Tads - but part of a team, Shimazu still refuses.
34. Fly over ski resort, radar lash, but get away ok.
35. Down to Bulgarian smuggler stop, "geological eye shadow" land ok and top up
36. Take-off, over the black sea, avoid the Turkish coast, and to Tbilisi
37. Arrive at farmhouse for around 19:00, circle, looks ok, comes in to land.
38. Skolivski Beskydy National Park - edge of the Tatra Mountains to the south, up to 140in snowfall, temps down to -40 in winter (temps below zero for 192 continuous days normal)
41. Massive storm late last year - Three million cubic metres of trees were uprooted
43. Warbears - 43k (Georgi) Claws, teeth, bones and hearts
44. "Very tough armoured hides, huge and powerful" adaptive colouration, ambush predators (maybe even dropping from trees – let’s steal from Australia and make it *even more dangerous* for a novel twist), with hardened armour and either regeneration or large amounts of pain resistance, big powerful creatures with large claws that can provide plenty of reach and a serious challenge to the team
45. Carpathian Bears - about 1.75m high at the shoulders, 4m when stood on hind legs, weighing 650-675kg.Bark coloured mottled fur

46. Powers: Enhanced Physical Attribute (Bod, E X 2D6 turns), Enhanced Reactions, Enhanced senses (Thermo, Hearing, Electrical disruption), Adaptive Colouration(TN10 stationary, 8 moving +2 ranged attack always), Concealment(+6 TN to spot), Quick strike
47. Standard bear: B11, Q4 X5, S14, C0, I2/4, W4, E6, R3(11), CP10, Init 2d6+6, Attacks 9D half armour, Reach +1, Pain resistance 5. KP 5, armour 3
48. Grizzled bear: B15, Q5 X5, S16, C0, I3/6, W5, E6, R4(12), CP12, Init 3d6+8, Attacks 10D half armour, Reach +2, Pain resistance 8. KP 10, , armour 5,Quick strike
Kren Cooper
Marius is on his way home, earlier than expected - he's left the rest of the team except Hunter, and is flying back to the ranch to go see Nadia and Marius Jr.

Nadia has not seen him since the surgery.
The surgery where his entire skin was replaced with a kevlar/plastic dermal layer designed to provide ballistic armour.
The surgery that has left him with a palpable and obvious "action man" texture.
How do you think she's going to handle this?
And what about Marius junior???

I'm thinking the kid is going to go mental, and scream whenever he's touched by the bad plastic alien thing that doesn't feel like daddy anymore. (The child is now about 2 months old BTW)

I'm thinking that Nadia is going to be *unimpressed*.

But any suggestions as to how she addresses this?
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 231 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
First of all, here are the few notes I had set up for the location:
1. Arriving at Songbird's residence, Georgi Kolarov is also there to handle the introductions and then leave - he has the newer 4X4
2. Songbird has a music studio / enchanting lab that she will probably let the team into to offload the stuff, once she has them checked out and vouched for
3. Her house is a long, low, traditional looking building, wooden construction, but with lots of modern features worked into the design, modern appliances, household drones etc. Security is very high, quite expensive – but she has a lot of valuable gear inside
4. Original offer = 43k. For the haul, now offers base of 75k, may be haggled up to 85k

Items to purchase
1. Thunderbolt (Sonic Wail)- A silver tuning fork. Force 6, casts with 10 dice. Cost 20K
2. Thunderclap (Crescendo) - A bronze cymbal. Force 8, casts with 10 dice, Cost 26K
3. Stealth - A sheet of hand pressed paper with musical staves - empty, Force 4, casts with 10 dice, Cost 14k
4. Manabolt - A pair of vertebrae from a big cat, Force 8, cast with 10 dice, Cost 26K
5. Decrease cyber reaction 3 - A strip of electric eel nerves, Force 7, casts with 6 dice, Cost 25k
6. Control Pack - A beeswax stick, Force 6, casts with 10 dice, Cost 20k
7. Fetishes at 90% base price
8. Expendable spell focus at 90% base, up to F6
9. Warding materials at 90%

A nice social encounter for the team now, and a chance to make a new contact, and to give them an alternate enchanter to work with, as well as a source for future talismongering jobs. No real risk (as long as Nadia doesn’t find out how pretty Songbird is anyway), plenty of rewards – just what we need to calm the team down after a frantic fight.
One thing to note here is that this shows a major departure we have in our homebrew “3.5” from the published 3rd edition – particularly with the metamagic Anchoring. As it read in the book, we thought it was an *awful* technique – so badly balanced that nobody in their right mind would take it. What sensible mage would give someone an item with a permanent link back to them, and the ability to inflict a deadly stun at any time, day or night, without warning? Nobody, that’s who. There’s not enough money in the world to do it. So it’s just a pointless metamagic that nobody ever took.
So, I developed it into three “tiers”, to try and fix it. The first tier is pretty much the version from the book. The 2nd tier though – “Improved Anchoring” allows you to start to improve on things – letting you lock up a karma reroll into the drain/casting, and giving 2X grade in your linking pool thanks to your better control. Still not great, but better.

The real money though is in the “Expert Anchoring”. This not only lets you sever the link between item and enchanter, stopping it being a live trail – it lets you do the drain test at the point of creation, as well as further reducing the target number for creation. Suddenly, there’s much less risk to giving someone the “magic bomb” – you’re not going to take a 5D drain out of the blue when they use it to assassinate the target, it’s already dealt with. Now you have an expensive – but workable – technique. It takes some investment to get there, but then you have an income stream that makes sense in the world.
I still don’t see many players going down this route – but it becomes feasible and rational for an NPC to do so (such as Songbird) and to actually exist in game.
Several of the team were really interested in the items, and found themselves wanting two or more of them, but then having to reign themselves in due to the costs – as of the end of the session, they still haven’t decided what to get with their “store credit”, so I suspect that’s going to be the question at the start of Tuesday’s session for the magic users.
And the other question is going to be of course, just how Nadia reacts to Marius and his upgrades.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Saturday 12/2/2061, Location: 41.88885, 44.78971, Time 19:00
2. Just landing in clearing. Shimazu meditating, Aswon on watch via prism - sees the force 3 watcher spirit pop out of the chimney.
3. Marius lands carefully, 30m away. Georgi comes out, lights up cigar, wanders in their direction a bit until he can see swaying plants.
4. Leave spirit concealment up. Georgi stops, and waits for team. Marius stops engines. Georgi stays, now looking at the lights from the back ramp, waits. Kai comes out with flashlight, syas hello, Georgi heads back to porch to wait in rocking chair.
5. Aswon opens collar to show his tattoos subtly. Georgi knocks on door, calls songbird, she comes out, looks, magical looks, advises to go round the side otherwise the wards will go off. Team looks, spots F12 alarm ward.
6. Walk down the side of the building, one way glass, team check security. Spot the security mesh in the wall. Spot the t, barn doors, open ward. Doors are high tech, have sensors too and cables to the walls.
7. Into the warehouse, say hello, Songbird thanks Georgi, flips him a chip, finish your drink, Songbird says hello to marius, sashays. Handshake, well manicured, gentle handshake. Kai buts in, do you want to know the story of how we got the stuff, don't want to disappoint you. Aswon - we have the audio transcript to reassure you there was no gunfire.
8. Do you have the things, a bag? Explain that's most of the bear. Tads goes to Levitate the first pile in.
9. Turns to Georgi - how well do you know people? No offence. Georgi... I'd lend Marius my phone, the rest - well Marius trusts them. Hunter - and I'm the godfather of his child! Others roll eyes. Tads - well, some bear is worth money, lots of bear is worth more, right?
10. Sliding door open with code - enchanting studio. Clears table space, how much more ? I'll get another table.
11. Aswon - she's pleased then? Tads, I think so. Aswon brings Lynx parts. Closes outer doors with a remote. Offers drinks and food, Aswon asks for jerky - she offers georgian goulash. Drones come out and start tending. Tell me your story. Tads - can show you. Entertainment? Well, phantasm. Kai offers mindlink - oh yes! Much more emotion. Tads tries to offer recording from the mindlink. She sets up recording studio, frantically scribbling, gets keyboard. Starts laying down a beat. Aswon looks for shamanic mask - gets pheonix / firebird, Shimazu aura reading.
12. Kai - not noticed a pattern to her questions, lots of emotional stuff. Stops team fight, listens to Hunter and Marius and gets their emotional input too.
13. Blasts out song lyrics. Now, got it. Obviously there's a lot more here than I was expecting - what are you after?
14. Well, we like money, but we're happy to do trade in kind, even stuff for later, credit etc.
15. She asks them to drop masking and observe, notes that Aswon has looked but not pried. Team drop masking one by one, let her look, she lets them look at her.
16. Shimazu aura reading - impressed and slightly intimidated.
17. Goes to wall safe, very high tech opening, gets stealth spell. Asks about lynx encounter. Talk about more stealth rather than invisibility.
18. Describes tear on use, Aswon asks about drain, she says no.
19. Kai asks for clarification on duration. She explains about tear on use, keep ing in pockets of trousers.
20. Aswon offers to trade for knowledge, masking in the future. Tads offers mana smoothing, but isn't sure if it works on a ritual level.
21. Starts to show her inventory - Kai wondering if worth getting for resale value. Aswon not sure, based on rep.
22. Aswon texts Kai - we do have a scale, not saying we sell it, that wasn't the deal - but she might be able to do something with it for us.
23. Shows the decrease cyber, tickles Aswon, mild shock, Tads recognises spell, but not level.
24. Recognises the control pack anchor.
25. Last of all shows the bulks stuff
26. Aswon asks how many other talismongers / enchanters she knows, offer her a card, maybe they can facilitate.
27. Ask for her card, get her demo chip, Aswon, asks for a dozen to hand out - she says no, wants to go on reputation.
28. Kai - we're after 50k Nuyen for the fuel and stuff, maybe some other stuff. See about spell trading with tads, She's interested in Heal F6, Treat mundane, Trid Phantasm 6, Vehicle Mask 7, Shape earth 7, Alter temp 7, Treat 7, Fix 7, Mass oxygenate 1
29. Stomping noise - Georgi in a chair in the corner, stamping on the ground to the beat.
30. Talk about staying the night, for spell exchange between Tads and Songbird.
31. Kai offers to broker. She's not so keen, wants to know the people she's selling to, and how they will use stuff. Kai explains that people are generally aligned with them, like the shamen with the dead wife - she starts to scribble stuff down. Aswon interupts - whoa, you're using our material.
32. Tads - I don't know if this is a good or a bad idea, but if you like stories... I know a creature, but you have to go out of body. Aswon - I know where this is going...
33. Get 50k, she offers 7.5k for lynx on top of the 25k store credit. Hunter and Marius go to drink with Georgi.
34. Marius int check - He and hunter go back in the bird, get Georgi to take them back to Tblisi and train back to Baku, pick them up from there.
35. Kai makes a subtle enquiry about drug addiction spells, gets dirty look from Shiamzu.He looks insulted. Shimazu joins the team going home.
36. Karoke, Tads sings the song used during Dragonspine, Aswon talks about breathing, she is super interested in that, wants to learn.
37. Aswon - you have to talk to Nadia and find out about her reaction to his new skin... Tads not keen, Kai and Aswon *very* interested... "for team morale!"
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 232 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
An odd one this week – we were two people down with Hunter’s player being out of the country for work, and Shimazu having to work overtime at fairly short notice. As we only found out on the day, and with the situation as it was, we ran anyway – as the action was mostly going to be focussed around Marius and the team still at Songbird’s place.
So – starting off with Marius. He’d had (in my opinion) a pretty easy run so far. Nadia is strong willed and knows what she wants, and equality for women has definitely become a major part of her life, and they’ve had the occasional argument – but generally speaking, life has been reasonably smooth for him. He certainly wasn’t expecting the baby – but after several nights of “couple time” and no mention of any precautions taken, well – biology. It’ll get ya…

But coming home having your entire surface skin replaced with a ballistic ortho-weave Kevlar hybrid that makes you look like an action man… nah. She’s not standing for that. It was time for some full bore circular logic – some “I don’t care that you’ve just explained it to me simply using language I understand, I’m going to demand the same thing in a slightly different way, ignoring what you’ve just said. (Any resemblance to some of my users at work is *purely* co-incidental you understand!)
With Marius walking on eggshells and spending the night on the couch, he found himself somewhat sidelined as Nadia was detailing her terraforming plans to Hunter – but Marius swallowed his pride and did his best to be a supportive and loving husband. He’s not out of the doghouse yet, but hopefully Nadia will come around to the idea once she’s had time to get used to it. And Marius Jr will never be short of a chewable dummy, on the plus side… 😊
Shimazu went into the “blanket box” and went off camera to go meditate in the hills (and hopefully not fall down any holes into subterranean lairs this time!)

Meanwhile, team magic discovered that the train from Tbilisi to Baku is not exactly a regular service (IRL, it’s actually only once per day according to the websites I checked, but the duration is correct – an 11 hour journey). I’d planned to give them the taxi ride back for more money but much shorter duration, and get them back to the ranch to meet up with the rest, and be ready to head out on Germaine’s job.

But instead – they decided to stay with the train and go exploring the city instead. So, all aboard the train – destination improv-central. Calling at frantically-checking-the-map, making-shit-up, rolling-with-the-punches and finally arriving at look-pictures-from-the-zoo. Google maps, was as ever a life saver, and after pulling up the rather sad looking pictures of Tbilisi zoo and referencing the Wikipedia article, I managed to spin out a whole bunch of description for the zoo for them – which then spurred another tangent derailing as they started to work out how to suborn the zoo and turn it into a money laundering / certificate generating asset.
The perils of running a sandbox. Sometimes you find the strangest things in the corners.
In between making notes of them chatting away and planning coup d’états though I got a good look at the articles on Tbilisi and the geography, and could start to fill in some more details, including some info on the local security considerations, which no doubt will be useful later.

Eventually we get the team all back together, so with any luck next session we’ll be off to Muscat to break into an insurance company office to look at the data they have, and start tracking down the runners who torched the gallery and stole Germaine’s stuff.
When the team find out exactly which runners it is – I don’t think they’ll have any moral problems making an example of them… :-O

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Sunday 13/2/2061, Location: , Time 00:30
2. Ranch team:
3. Arrive back just after midnight, most people are asleep - but coming in will wake up Nadia. Bad reaction on seeing Marius - gasp of surprise and fear, has he been burnt.
4. "Have you been in a fire?"
5. "No, new implants, settling down phase. Don't know how it will be once bedded down."
6. "She saw someone wearing a mask like that after a cooker fire, until their skin got better."
7. "This is my skin, this is how it is."
8. Discover it's all over, doesn't like it. Wants him to take it off. On finding out it's not like a suit, wants it uninstalled. Very stubborn - it's not you, it's not right.
9. Charisma test (pass) perception test (pass) - Nadia mardy / upset. Marius asks if he should go sleep downstairs - she gets him a pillow.
10. Will argue and send Marius to go sleep on the sofa downstairs.
11. In the morning, family try to creep about, but Marius up at once to avoid uncomfortable situation.
12. Shimazu out at dawn to go mediate on the mountains. Grabs food and water and heads out on his own.
13. Marius Jr will have a fear reaction to the skin, start to blubber, try to reach for his mom. She gives an "I told you so".
14. Marius points out that he didn't ask for it, wasn't his choice, not a lot he can do about it.
15. "what's the name of the doctor, I'll call him and sort it out, tell him you need to see him". Marius explains it's a black facility, no number to call.
16. Nadia explains about work done - Purchased and needs paying for: Vehicle shop purchased and being installed, 30k
17. She explains irrigation plans, Marius goes out of his way to be loving and supportive husband.
18. Planned and wants funds for: Has planned out irrigation system for the area and mountains, needs Tads to dig her 4 wells, and about 8km of irrigation trenches. She has 2nd hand pipes coming. (6k pipes, .25k labour per 500m, 13k per km new, 6.5k 2nd hand, total=50k ish
19. Consult with Hunter - Test vs TN4 for (Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Botany, Geology, Ecology, Logistics and Engineering), then count up the successes
20. 1-3: Sounds like a reasonable plan, it should make the area look nicer and the ranch will make more money
21. 4-5: What Nadia is planning will likely shift weather patterns in the area somewhat, due to the abrupt elevation changes and type of terrain. Might want to do further research on the plan and the impact
22. 6-7: It's not by design, but probably what she is planning will result in terraforming the area. If trees take hold on the slopes, catching moisture laden air pushed east, it will result in something akin to a rain shadow in the area - the ranch will need to look at drains, but it will become much nicer and more temperate, though could cause some unexpected weather events.
23. 8+: If the treeline can be established and shaped / managed, then the prevailing winds are likely to alter - not by much, but some - due to the changes in terrain and biosystem. It *might* lead to some opportunities for things like para-sailing and kart-kiting, but it could also lead to small twisters or dust-devils in mid-summer.
24. Magic team: Stay the night at Songbirds, chance for Tads to teach one spell. She goes for vehicle mask. Tads teaching test - gets only one success, but it's a good one. (27) Tads makes food to say thankyou, oblivious to Songbird. Aswon and Kai notice but say nothing. At end Aswon says "this is why we get her to make ingredients" Songbird "all my stuff comes out of packets, the robots cook it... I'll give it away in the village"
25. Journey back to Tiblisi with Georgi in the 4X4, to the train station, 11 hour journey, 448km... tickets are 20 NY each.
26. Team start to look around, do tourist stuff, look for talismonger shop
27. Find a talismongers, mostly fake - anti-immortal elf cream, etc. Only a few warding materials, at about 150%
28. Monasteries, zoo, old churches - Aswon wants to go to the zoo.
29. Zoo is run badly, tired, run down, dirty, small animal selection, all a bit depressing. Tads suggests Hunter and Kai chat, Hunter does research, then Kai gets Nadia put on the board to get them organised.
30. Survival check for Aswon/Tads - possibly good place to launder animals through, as well as cash.
31. Aswon gets a bunch of weighted gloves for the team, no shock gloves. No guns for general civilian purchase.
32. Taxi outside shop - Aswon want restaurant for swanky meal
33. back would cost 500Ny for 415km, and take about 4-5 hours...turn down.
34. Go for a nice meal, bottle of wine, 100 Nuyen for the 3. check out the town for police presence and general population. Foot heavy, drone and magic light. Talking with locals, especially shops - really impressed with Aswons efforts to use local language.
35. Scout out the higher class / more affluent areas, getting a feel for police presence.
36. On the train, poor quality, cold, slow, but picturesque. Arrange for Hunter to come get them Monday morning.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 233 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
We were down one player this week, so a little less banter than usual – and there was a lot of investigation / planning as well, with some very strange lines of questioning, and me trying various different types of poker face as they discussed them and followed up on some of them.
It seemed to take a good while, but eventually the team as a whole realised that what they needed to do was get the bird fuelled up, and get on their way do to Muscat to do an old-fashioned B&E job into the security company to get at the data they needed – which would include the police reports about the strange ritual cuttings and several victims found in the area (including the room they were using to do their obs of the museum/gallery), tying this strange MO to the team that did the break-in. THEN – when they discover a police report that has just come in that night and was waiting to be added to the case about a poor shepherd over to the west in the desert interior that had been cut in a ritualistic fashion, they’ve finally got a lead to go on – and they can start tracking the other team through various gulf countries by the string of mutilations left in their wake, trying to catch up with them.
This should lead them on a merry chase through various countries then, allowing them to slowly catch up with the enemy team – at least as long as Hunter keeps making the hacking rolls, or they manage to sweet talk villagers / policemen along the way – and try to get to them before they dispose of the painting or disappear for good.

I’m not sure if I was too subtle with the clues for this one, or if the team are just trying really hard not to do the travel and incur the expenses, but they seemed really reluctant to just go and do the legwork, even when Hunter was not getting much in the way of joy early in the evening with his data-searches or avenues of investigation.
One of the things I try not to do though is rail-road the players, and leave it open so that if they discover a new way of doing something, or an alternative I haven’t considered, that they have an equally valid way of “solving” whatever problem I’ve put in their path. Of course, sometimes that means frantically floundering around in the water, splashing everything and everyone around them while I’m just thinking *really hard* at them “stand up – the water’s only 3 foot deep!”.

Ahh, the perils of being a GM and having perfect knowledge of how the puzzle is supposed to be solved…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Monday 14/2/2061, Location: 40.02426, 48.95799, Time 08:50
2. Quick recap - getting details of the dossier. Kai - search for bloodlines, history of the art, grudges from painting/artist etc? Anyone have any contacts? Marius - mentions Mossad contact. But curious about why the team is double-crossing - odd if it was just for extra money. Maybe hired by someone else and pretending to take the job - won't damage their rep later. Kai - asks Hunter to find out if it was restored recently, may have been sampled or tested? May be able to use as a ritual link? Marius - good plan, maybe also find out if artwork is out on the market. Kai: or collectors of that style of art, or artist - trying to finish their collections?
3. Shimazu - worth asking Germaine if she has any enemies or prior issues that might be a factor? More intel?
4. Kai - can we do ritual tracking? Tads - no, need a 2nd mage. Also need a lodge or circle, but need the 2nd mage most of all. Discussion about phys-ad with projection - but minutes not hours. Marius - astral quest? TN probably high, very dangerous.
5. Hunter searches - no art collectors / particular info on the artist or painter currently known / under discussion. Oman insurance - good security, all offline - need physical access to servers, they are hyper-cautious about connectivity to the matrix due to some incident in the past, but they still use hard-copy and OCR to gather some data!
6. Looking at the news articles on the incident again, somewhat faded away now after 9 days.
7. Marius calls Michael David. Checks ID, you dropped off the radar a bit. Been working on the downlo-got an interesting one, runner by the name of "Dice" and their team have disappeared, hired to find them - you have any files? We like to stay appraised, how urgent? Not mega urgent, like the next hour - but we're looking for them. Last job was in Muscat, Oman. Asks for number, will call back.
8. Hunter not having much luck with obituaries, too much data in Arabic to sift. No CCTV for the gallery or the areas, all seized by Oman insurance.
9. Marius calls Andre Koompli in Constantinople. Trying to track down some artwork. Not heard of them, pretty enough boat I guess. Nothing on his radar. Ask Marius "how subtle to be". Subtle. What do you want? Questions both ways - Marius, military grade munitions. 50 cal, big boy toys and canon rounds.
10. Kai thinking about going to see Germaine to get more details - etiquette test. Doesn't want to disappoint - sends message, investigating, several routes, one route is... thinks about compartmentalisation.
11. Go back and look at news reports again. Shimazu - really might be an inside job. Tads - agrees. Or maybe something else in the storeroom.
12. Kai - what about radar information? Hunter, checks map - international airport 13km west, but a *very* hard target to breach. Kai - what about areas around the areas around the museum. Hunter sniggers
13. Team get the feeling that they need to get onsite to get stuff done.
14. Hunter search for illegal stuff in Oman - good rolls. Info from Wikipedia + 6th world twist, Metas are tolerated and employed by the government due to strength and practicality in industry. As well as petro chem, large agri corps present. Need visas / passports to be there legally.
15. Kai calls Praneeth, in, picks up, Ahh - my friend, long time no speak, how are you. All good etc. Explains coming to the area. Rising piracy in the area and mega-corps fighting, rising tensions. Sends details for Keith. Praneeth wants "Karl Kombat mage action figures for the kids" Got to be legit - the kids will spot a fake a mile off. Anything for him - he says no, not worth the risk.
16. Keith calls, loud and rude - you're a gobbler aint ya! 250Ny landing fee, or trades. Asks for deck chairs, bacon, bitter, Kai agrees...hangs up, then asks "what the hell was that"
17. Team go and get all the gear from Baku, while others work on a deck chair design. Leave at dusk, couple of hours down to Qatar, refuel, into Oman at Dawn.
18. Look at the map, and get ready to go.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 234 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
The team are on the way to Oman, via a new smuggler stop – which fills in a nice little spot for them and opens up most of the middle east for future operations – as long as they can put up with “Keith”, who hopefully combines the worst excesses of an east-london/essex wideboy ex-pat with a severe case of casual racism…
I did have a thought about how I was going to address this racism. Was it wise to be referring to “pakis” and “nips” and other derogatory terms in the story, even when it was clear this was coming from the mouth of a racist asshole? In the end I went with a more 3rd person narrative, describing the teams response to hearing those kinds of terms and leaving it to the reader to imagine the actual terms used – hopefully this is the best way to actually portray the racist content without referencing it directly.
They also met a new team, based off of a small merchantman that tours the gulf. They didn’t enquire too much about them (which is a shame) – but have basic introductions and contact details, so at least they can bump into them in the future. They do know that the boat has a *very* good EW suite though – but they missed out on the hollowed out well-deck concealed in the freighter and the small electric minisub armed with Piranha torpedoes that they use for landing and deliveries/collections!

On the way down to Oman they got a reminder from Aden about the device he’d ordered them to make – reminding them that they’re on the clock for this – more of which in a bit.
Finally, they arrived in Oman and found themselves a landing spot up in the hills, and got it concealed nicely, and the whole team headed down into Muscat. I’ve relocated the gallery from it’s actual R/L position (which is 20km east of Muskat city centre and not ideal in terms of plot delivery for what I have in mind) and let them get some local currency to use as bribes, as well as establish a little of the local etiquette.
Hopefully next week will be a bit of recon of the site (not hugely forthcoming) and the insurance offices, and planning a break-in. Once they get inside the office they can get the insurance files which will reveal a whole bunch of information – the total cost of the insurance loss (double digit millions, which is why it’s being treated so carefully) and some details on the scene found in the building the other team used as a base – including the ritual cutting carried out on the cleaner before she was killed. And then there’s a police report of another person suffering ritual cuttings, out to the west of the city, a small village in the back-desert. A bit of thinking from Hunter and Marius should reveal that it’s about an easy days’ journey for an off-road ground vehicle leaving the city and heading west, avoiding the main roads. And then there’s another, right on the border with the UAE – same style, but different cuts. Time to play connect the dots, and follow the trail of carnage!

Once the team have finished this mission for Germaine, they should be pulled straight into heading off to see Aden with the device (which is actually about due to arrive at the ranch), to deliver that to him – where he’ll give them an immediate job to go deal with some Turkish army units that are giving the PKK a really hard time. Unfortunately for the team, he’s not in an asking mood – more a telling. Assuming they do that, and return to him however, he’s had time to enchant the device and it will be rather forcibly implanted into Hunter – whether he likes it or not. Once he gets the benefit of his “campaign special item” though, I think he’ll be a lot more appreciative of it.
After that, it’s my intention to start throwing several missions at them quite rapidly – some stuff for the probe race (as we’re in the year of the comet), another mission for Ludmilla, some new missions from the contacts they’ve made including Cosmic (who’s a little annoyed with them that they didn’t do the follow up steal on the Admiral in Crimea) and some more – some of which will be absolutely impossible to do as they overlap in either time or space constraints. It’s going to be time for the team to choose who they favour as contacts and who they can afford to disappoint or distance themselves from. After that we have SURGE to deal with, and towards the end of the year the ring of fire is going to go mental as Lung and Rumyo fight over the stones they planted in the previous year, leading to Imperial Japan undergoing massive changes and the events in CalFree kicking off – which may affect the runs they have as a couple more dragons start to lean on them as we go straight into Survival of the Fittest around some more runs for the longer overall campaign.
That should keep us busy for a few more years…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Monday 14/2/2061, Location: 40.02426, 48.95799, Time 18:00
2. Team have Bacon, Deckchair, Bitter - check weapons, and flowing robes for Muscat. Discussion in team about what weapons to take / carry. Aswon trying to work out what he can take concealed - throwing knives and extendable staffs.
3. Planning on getting into the office, based off the other Shadowrun team being able to do it a few months ago.
4. Ask Hunter if they can get him into a traffic cam, can he get the data - Hunter thinks it would help, but only for the feed on that camera.
5. Kai asks if gallery would have a hearth spirit - Tads, no, nobody living there, very unlikely. May have something else - but probably not. Aswon - but that will make it city spirit, city domain, get close and summon, ask it questions. Aswon - city spirit may know something about the incident, destroying "its" city.
6. Kai ask about buildings nearby - Shimazu, no - the police will have confiscated due to criminal impact.
7. Kai - am confused about the fire and people dying, why, it escalates things. Aswon - might be the team, or to cover things. Tads - it did say it got out of control, that might be where people died.
8. Kai - want to check the families, see how upset they are, if it's an inside job. Also - would fire mask the spells. Tads and Aswon - explain no.
9. 3 hours flight time, 7 on stealth.
10. Crossing from TCL to Iran (11,7), Just a tickle, no problem
11. Crossing from Gulf into Qatar (17,9) Get a firm ping, Marius drops, Tads puts up a cover flock.
12. Spot the tramp freighter, tramp freighter - assense, spot F4/5 hearth spirit, watchfulness. Marius pulls up and does a 20km loop to avoid leading them to the smuggler stop. Come in to spot IR lamp illuminating landing pad.
13. Coming in to land around 22:00. Call Frank so he comes out. Drop vehicle mask, leave concealment up.
14. Keith’s - Booby-doo-wap are loading on some Pearls and luxury fish for export. Keith comes round with stick and desert eagle. Waves hello "Awright Geezer" Introduce Kai and Shimazu, handshake, clammy and greasy. "you got my stuff then? Let's have a gander", Aswon gets stuff out. "Wot you got there, special paint and stuff?" Taps on bird. Mention freighter - ahh, that's boobydowap". Kai asks for clarification on where they are going - inside, rooms and stuff, civilised.
15. Spot other team loading boxes into handcart, respectful nods and salutes. Keith - you're not local. Come out here to make me fortune. Tests deckchair. Checks over other stuff. Offer truffles - thinks chocolate truffles. Calls for Charlene to take the stuff into the fridge - I'm watching telly! Checks team funds, then allows fuel bowser to be taken.
16. Get room assigned, bare, stone floor, shithole next door. No wards.
17. Kai explains they are heading to Oman/Muscat. How to deal with the police - explains bolshy, act like you own the place
18. Where can we land? Airport - but not legal. Right, up in the hills then - got bikes/cars. 10 klick walk - avoid the heat of the day. Avoid bacon grease / pictures of jesus. Kai - do you want stuff? Luxury Dates - if they're fresh
19. Dodge comes over to say hello. Just heading out, not staying - you're new, got a job in Oman. We ship stuff - us too. Explain they are shipping pearls, Kai says they do odd stuff. Mention Orlando. We spent money on her - mostly dealing around the gulf. Kai mentions local pirates - try not to look important, they should leave you alone. Swap business cards. Kai asks if they've gone through the Suez - bit of work, but not much. Mentions the mist on the freighter behind the Maersk. "Ahh, pirates with mojo, not that common". Dooby get harnessed up, head to the coast 1km
20. Depart about midnight, heading to Oman via UAE, get one hit but EDs let them escape.
21. Heraeus Metals’ of New York, Boston Metal Fabricators Inc. 12 weeks from 12/11/60
22. Message from "Boss" Why haven't you contacted us to get the device. Some discussion about the engineering. Kai responds "slipped our mind,
23. Ordered - just not arrived yet, due soon.
24. Hunter gets them a landing spot south of Falaj, arrive around 3am. Land in a wadi, raise the berms, deploy the cammo net.
25. Team get into modest gear, grab water, shuck armour, small toolkits and get ready to head into town. Kai adjusts to local colour/face shape.
26. Into Falaj, affluent area, moist air, large cars. No spirits, all spells down except increase reflexes
27. Down into town, long slope, light traffic. Light CCTV, almost no drones. Get into town, some police, no 2nd looks. Get to the museum. street blocked off, tape either side, unguarded but dirty - no street sweeping for days. Kai checks things out astrally. BGC 1, dry city - but nothing special here.
28. Kai - question - how about if we go invisible and just get in here? Tads - I think it's a bad idea.
29. Look around the block, find back entrances and alternate routes into the businesses in closed off areas, scope out some of the cctv - city stuff at end of roads, some on local businesses. Get an idea of what other businesses are in the area, maybe visit the museum to social engineer, work on the outer layers of business cctv.
30. Rehash the bribery culture - gifts, patronage. Go for breakfast - then go looking for cashpoint.
31. Hunter tries Arabic / etiquette, then Marius joins in as well. Much better result.
32. Supermarket - charge and refund, get 400 Omani Rial for 1k Nuyen, get breakfast
33. Start to ask about stuff to see in the area, mosques, shopping - all commercial. Mention fire, not too fussed
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 235 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
It’s larp season, and this weekend was another event, so a bit of a struggle to get the story out in time – got as much done as I could Thursday night and Friday morning, but didn’t manage to finish it off before loading the car and heading off – fortunately it was only about the last page that needed to be finished, so I cracked on with that as soon as I was back from the event.

Having finally gotten the team to Muskat, it was time to start scoping out the two locations for possible jobs – the first being the museum / gallery, and the 2nd being the insurance company. I’d fairly heavily hinted at the insurance company being the place with the information they needed – or at least I thought I had – but some of the team seemed *very* interested in checking out the gallery, talking to people, getting details from there etc. So, I threw in some ID scanners at the entry way, and gave Shimazu a roll on his security procedures and some other skills to reinforce the fact that the insurance company was the stronger lead, and that being recorded / remembered talking to people, especially when they’re all in the country illegally, was probably a really bad idea – especially in such a totalitarian regime.

Once the penny had dropped through, they were off to the central business district to find the insurance building and scope it out. With a bit of careful planning and working out what exclusive actions to carry out first, and how to share the information, they got the info they needed to plan the break-in, and got an idea of what they were up against. Hopefully next week they’ll do the job – which should be fairly simple given the skillset, and get the information from the off-line matrix host, allowing them to start putting clues together and following the trail.

One of the enemy team has a geas “cutting” – they have to draw blood every so often to offset a lost magic point. Being a “baddie”, they are quite happy to cut other people, so there’s been a whole chain of cuttings, amputations, beheadings etc since they arrived in the city, until the night of the job – enough to establish an M.O.

They also have a police report from a village outside Muscat, which once Marius and Hunter get a look at, they’ll both get an intelligence/navigation/vehicle check – and can see that this is about one days worth of off-road travel from the city. The enemy team decided to stay off the highways and go cross country, slowing them down massively, but making them almost impossible to find – if only their physical adept wasn’t leaving a trail of cut people behind them… *doh*

Once the players hopefully realise this, and they have a location to start from, they can then draw an arc from that place, and work out where the next settlement is that might be about a days travel and fly over there – advancing rapidly, and then do some local investigation – which should turn up the next body, and another clue from some of the locals about how the baddie team appeared / which way they went. The trail will lead them back to Iran, and hopefully the players will get a chance to catch up before the other team offload the artwork to their new buyer, and can get it back to Germaine – and leave the double-crossing team as some kind of grisly warning to others not to betray their fixer.

Either that, or they’ll be too slow and miss their chance, lose the painting and only get the team as the “consolation” prize, and lose some rep with Germaine. We’ll have to see…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Tuesday 15/2/2061, Location: 23.59186, 58.403, Time 08:00
2. Starting at breakfast time at the cafe, dry and clear, may get hot later
3. Kai - we've got some info on the gallery, mind probe would be useful on people nearby. Tads very uncertain, high risk if detected.
4. Thinking about going to the museum - it has ID scanners though, would pick up no visas. Aswon - maybe check the staff car park?
5. Kai - lets go to the museum, scout it out. See what's going on.
6. Aswon - we could make out that we're representatives of an interested party, about the painting, wanting to talk to the insurance company / museum. Arrange a meet, get Kai to act as an art dealer. Maybe even pretend to represent the artist for a different painting or sculpture. Aswon - maybe even ask Germaine if she knows anyone.
7. Get to museum, armed security guard, ex cop, light pistol. Ask Hunter to talk to guard, get a manager re the break-in. Tads - maybe get Marius to do it, avoid metahuman bias. Kai - pretend to be a donor for the gallery. Hunter checks intel - no list of donors.
8. Pause nearby and discuss - Kai, do we go into the museum, ask questions about what went on. Aswon - say we're investigators, as that's essentially true. Represent a collector, some pieces were in your gallery, the fire has ruined their chance of getting a full collection, very angry. Want a contact with the investigator from the insurance. Kai - maybe mention our collector might help get the museum back in operation again - in exchange for a plaque or something like that. Aswon - just have to be careful we don't get ID checked. Unless we call our ID manufacturers and try to get that sorted out. Kai - maybe take the angle we're here to find the painting and get it back to the museum, so their collector can buy legitimately - very important that our employer has only legal paintings.
9. Shimazu - uncomfortable with getting recognised /tagged. People are dead, should be a police investigation, but the insurance company are doing it, unusual, already out of normal procedure.
10. Aswon - suggest calling, not face to face contact then - just phone the museum and ask about the contact with the insurance company. Tads - suggest we get Hunter to make a fake investigation company so they can check us out.
11. Kai - let's go check out the insurance company then, this sounds like we don't want to / feel comfortable getting into the museum. Why do we need the insurance company contact name anyway?
12. Aswon - get the insurance lead, break into his house and mind-probe him. Residential B&E instead of corporate, much easier, lower risk.
13. Aswon - let's go scope out the insurance company then.
14. Marius - can we control people. Mention of Kai Command, Tads influence, intimidate maybe. Find a person working there, control them, get them to do the data exfiltration, stop us having to get into there.
15. Get to Insurance company, spot the ward, start to investigate area, security is lighter than western cities, a little older - good environment for preservation. Looking for substations etc. Find every building has a plant room with external access.
16. Aswon - probably not a route into the building, very unlikely to be links to their internal IT. Why?
17. Kai - thinking about cutting the power when we go in, to drop security. Doors are sturdy, good locks, but otherwise light security.
18. Tads points out the hole in the middle - easier access?
19. Aswon - is it plascrete-7? Chemistry check - no success, turns down a re-roll. Unsure. Tads asks why - Aswon explains.
20. Shimazu security procedures, window sensors probably only on the bottom.
21. Check out the building, dark stripes - Aswon, I can get up there, run a line down get people in. Can get in on the "dark side" when the moon is up.
22. Kai - break in from the outside past the locks. Sneak in and get up through service elevators etc - difficult. Possibly a tunnel - like in Crimea. In through the windows. In through the roof.
23. Tads - offer one astral flyby, they obviously have some mages on call. Don't like the idea of tunnelling - probably concrete.
24. Kai - Hunter has to be in, for the decking, then Marius for security doors / alarms. Then security procedures - Shimazu. Tads best for outside cover / blatting. No reason for me to go in.
25. Aswon - Kai - you could cover the social engineering inside. But perhaps better for Kai/Tads to do outside distraction/cover escape.
26. Kai- Tads can you mend/fix - small stuff. Can you accident - break floodlights etc? Check - does the team have a glass cutter? Yes, Marius has one (small one) in his toolkit.
27. Fainting water, side of building - astral scouting on the roof, top left corner has more hvac than the rest, estimated R3 maglock. Kai ask Marius to check the temp on the building, looking for hot/cold spots. Spot where the data centre via thermo on Marius, Aswon zoom vision different refractive on the glass, top 1/4 of the top left square.
28. Tads - can we use spirits to jam the hvac? Aswon - better to break the maglock, it's easy.
29. Picture of building - corner office for director of IT. Comms array - probably tv receive only.
30. Check the day - not a holiday/special day/bank holiday etc.
31. Check building next to highway - gazebo for speed monitoring police. Buildings on either side look like multi-use commercial.
32. Get a taxi to an off-book hotel where they can pay cash. Marius good etiquette check, get to coffin hotel for orks/trolls, out by expressway
33. Almost no watchers, no travellers. Only active magic security is elementals on guard at mosques.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 236 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
A nice simple B&E job for the team this week. I’d plotted out the building, security and computer system, based on their stats and equipment – enough to be a bit of a challenge and make them think, but nothing too rough.
The building details:
• Oman insurance PTY - a 5 story modern concrete office, Roof has a R3 maglock, no AT.
• R5 electronic security with AT2, R4 wards (mosaic patterns)
• Offline host for Hunter to hack and get data
• Hunter - Computer 6, Hacking Pool 7, DF 4, Sleaze 3, MPCP 5, Validate 3
• Oman Insurance Host - Green Host R6, 2 dice detect, 4 dice attack hitting on 5s, 2d6 turns for reinforcements
• Log on Computer 6 vs 3s, need 3+ successes. System rolls 2 dice vs 4s to detect intrusion.
• Run validate (3) to get basic access (4) mini admin or (5) full admin, needing 3+ successes
• Run search (3) to download paydata.
This is not SR3 standard decking – we have some home-brew rules that simplify things a lot and make it much quicker to run through, and keeps the game flowing a lot faster than the core rules – which might be why that looks ‘wrong’ to any SR3 aficionados.

A random encounter roll led to the police car stopping as they were scoping the place out, but again they handled that with a reasonable story, a good etiquette roll, and a fair dose of suspicion – so they spotted the police car stalking with them and then acted in the best way to allay any doubts the two coppers had – so that worked out ok for them.

They managed to get in, and come up with a plan to get around the security which was fairly low risk – and a quick random roll meant the security guard *wasn’t* watching the monitor at the time it got covered up. So, in they went, and they ran into the first of the two minor issues for the night – Marius got the case off ok, but then got an awful roll on actually hacking the lock. Fortunately he did have some rerolls left, but he’s no down to 1 remaining!
Shimazu meanwhile was less lucky, when he rolled a bunch of 1s and 2s on his lockpicking, as he’s completely out – so it was a snapped lockpick for him! Not that the office was going to give them any more information than what they got from the computer system, not that they were to know that of course.

Armed with the paydata, they made good their escape, and got back to the tilt-wing ok and started to look through the mass of data, allowing me to then brief them on the “highlights”
I had worked out a timeline of what the enemy team had done, and had a sliding scale of how much / how many clues to reveal – Hunter did a pretty good job with his hacking, so they got the max results from that, and they should have an easy job of putting the clues together now I think.

The timeline:
• 1/2/61 Team make it to Muscat - homeless man beheaded, Grey nondescript delivery van seen on CCTV in nearby area
• 2/2/61 Taxi driver found with both hands cut off, bleeding out round the back of a taxi-rank. Claims to have been attacked by a demon clad in red fire - but slightly unhinged by the attack. Bakir El'Salem, 30 years old, lives locally with his mother.
• 3/2/61 Appartment cleaner taken captive - Saday Al'Nasrah, 48, Mother of 4, Widow (Anti-piracy Naval patrol), lives nearby and does cleaning to supplement Navy Pension, ward of her husbands brother who lives in Al'Ain. He has had to come to the city to look after the children, he knows about the death, the kids don't.
• 4/2/61 Appartment cleaner beheaded, corpse found amidst mass of bleach sprayed all over the room, destroying most evidence. Signs that at least 5 people had been here, Haram food supplies, pornography, alcohol and drugs use evident
• 5/2/61 Break in and fire, forensic investigation revealed the gallery security company guard was found in a dumpster, with his arms and legs sliced open.
• 6/2/61 Nahdah - farmer sliced open from shoulder to hip. Reports of a Brown UPS truck in village
• 7/2/61 Makaz'ash - village shopkeeper struck from behind and back sliced open. Yellow "Water aid" truck overnight
• 8/2/61 Arada - small child beheaded and left in a wadi. Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter
• 9/2/61 Al Batha - housewife sliced open in vegetable garden (Border between UAE and SA). Red and blue Abu Dhabi Import/Export Co
• 10/2/61 Hawiyah - Goat herder set upon and left leg sliced open
• 11/2/61 Al Hinah - Engineer digging new village well, left arm amputated at the elbow
• 12/2/61 Al Warfah - Local Imam disembowled (border crossed into Kuwait from SA) Black+green Kuwait Oil tanker
• 13/2/61 Abdhali - Teenage boy in critical condition after right leg sliced open in curving pattern (Near border to Iran) Black+green Kuwait Oil tanker
• 14/2/61 Nobquan - Goat herder beheaded, intricate carvings into back. White truck, doctors without borders noticed by farmers.
• 15/2/61 Afus - two baby siblings bled out after someone removed their skin from 90% of their chest area. Large red truck, Qom Couriers.
The enemy team are slowly meandering back to Iran, and heading back to Tehran to arrange to dispose of the painting, taking their time and waiting out the security noose, avoiding the major highways. One of the team is a phys-ad who lost a magic point and took a geas “cutting” – and then being an amoral slitch, has realised that *someone* needs to be cut, but not necessarily them… so some poor pedestrians are being savaged along the way.

The team have now firmly got a bee in their bonnet about the enemy team though, and it was all very sober at the end of the session, with some determination to hunting them down and making them pay. It’s going to be interesting to see if they manage to catch up with them before the other team make it back to Tehran and disappear into the shadows!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Tuesday 15/2/2061, Location: 23.58348, 58.44767, Time 22:00
2. Cool, clear, team armour up a little (form fit for those who have it), then start to walk in.
3. Kai checks on what they need to do in terms of spells - Tads says they need concealment, find a quiet corner, Tads discovers spirits are more resistant to being called. Mana smoothing, takes a while. No police or drone activity, slum area.
4. 4km walk into the centre, Aswon walking separate parallel route left, Hunter on the right, both make good stealth checks. Shimazu does the same from the rear. Get through the CBD, restaurants and cafes, some nightlife, fairly quiet.
5. Look at maps, plan exfiltrate, possible routes and taxi journey. Tads says she can alter memory on the taxi driver if needed.
6. Get to building, it's somewhat well lit, uplighters and street lighting, moonlight is strong so area is fairly light, but with lots of harsh shadows. Hunter vs Aswon, gecko crawl might set off the ward, Hunter uses claws. Shimazu and Aswon boost him so claw marks are higher.
7. Hunter scampers up building with excellent climbing roll + claws, lowers rope.
8. Random rolls - 1, 1 again...doh. Hunter surprise check. Pulls rope up as rest of team is illuminated by police car, from the street. Marius heads over towards the police with a smile. Asks for directions to McRonalds. Aswon blocks LOS to Tads. Marius etiquette check, does ok - just, gets directions and told he shouldn't be there. Pulls out local currency to offer his thanks - offers them 200Ny worth. Big note, elbow to the ribs, snatch out of his hand. Rest of team head in directions given. Tads asks Hunter to survey from on high, do they stay in the area, go on patrol. Hunter paranoid, checks for sensors. No signs of sensors / patrols, all quiet.
9. Hunter spots the cops go around the block then wait with the lights off, watching the team head to McRonalds, before turning around and heading off. Most of team head in to get a meal/drink. Team go around the block and head back, get there about midnight. Drop the rope. Climb 4 tests - Aswon slow (1), Shimazu (2), Marius (1). Tads and Kai move over to trees to lurk in the shadow, check around them - quiet and dark, maybe cleaners or security guards.
10. Roof access door - swipe card and 10 digit keypad. Marius asks - scramble or super quiet. go SQ. Marius tools out and hacks the lock. Sand in the screws, but quick once the case is off. No contact or camera cover. Ward cuts through the door. Aswon masks tattoos, Shimazu turns off, all in. Marius and Hunter swap to ultrasound and start scoping. Spot camera in the corner, looking their way. Spot the very faint IR light on the camera, illuminating the corridor. No more astral wards/alarms - Aswon. Marius zooms in and checks around for blind spots. Hunter engineering check. Marius checks the roof - there is a void. No camera at other end. Hack through fire-foam, Aswon checks - no access to server room. Blocks camera, 3,2,1 run up to corner. Marius examines the camera, streaming a live feed, somewhat old tech, basic. SUT tests from Aswon/hunter - slew the camera around to increase blind spot size. Fire / security door, gas sealed but not under/over pressure. Int check - not great from Marius, 1 success. Aswon and Shimazu go hunting with lockpicking. Marius recognises the lock, gets the stats. Case off - 3 successes, slow, but no danger. Touches circuit - starts to alarm, RR, ok, 2 mins on each. Clean server room, well lit, cool air. Get in before temp rises too much. Close the door - there is a manual release.
11. Hunter finds a jackpoint, starts to log in - logs on ok, no spot - validate full admin - 5 success. Squelch a sand devil watchdog. Search - 3 successes, gets all the data. Can log off gracefully.
12. Aswon and Shimazu checking - inner ring juniors multiple occupancy, outer is senior partners with PAs in outer offices. Looking for files that matches, lead investigator "Al Sharif" - Hunter can download the whole file, lots of MPs. Aswon and Shimazu find the Al Sharif office in the SW corner of the building - Shimazu tries to lockpick, 2+1, fails, snaps a lockpick. Oh... Aswon removes with a rifle B/R roll of 29...
13. Hunter checks - security system is completely separate to computers. Log out, team starts to exfiltrate. Hunter wants the camera put back, paranoid after last break in, team reverse. Clean the stairwell, back up into the roof, replacing all locks on the way back. Outside team have not seen the police patrol come back. Check for trouble, then get down the building. Hunter last one down with double rope and a drop down the last floor.
14. Back about 03:30 to tilt-wing, no trouble on the way. Start analysing the data:
15. 5/2/61 - Night of the fire. Gallery security company guard was found in a dumpster, with his arms and legs sliced open in a series of long, shallow cuts. Cause of death was a silenced pistol to the back of the head, but this was done after the cuts were inflicted. Entry to the gallery was made via the roof access door - the mag-lock was sequenced and the alarm was bypassed with jumper cables.
16. Internal sensors and alarms were disabled physically after the door into the security office was forced - remains of the door lock were found splintered, and from the burn damage it was clearly done before the fire took hold.
17. The building fire suppression system was deliberately sabotaged, and then fire-blocks were removed on the gallery floor and in the HVAC area, to deliberately let the fire spread, and in fact promote the fire effects.
18. 6/2/61 - After the fire was dealt with, residents complained about an odd smell in an apartment at the top of the building adjacent to the museum. Concerned over possible fire damage / effects, the local fire service investigated, then called in the police. Apartment found littered with fast food / junk food, and a number of bottles of foreign alcohol found empty. A body was found, beheaded by a blade exceeding 30cm, based on forensic evidence (cutting stroke and angle indicate that the blow was administered from above, behind and with high force. Body identified as Saday Al'Nasrah, 48, Mother of 4, Widow (Anti-piracy Naval patrol), lives nearby and does cleaning to supplement Navy Pension, ward of her husbands brother who lives in Al'Ain. He has had to come to the city to look after the children, he knows about the death, the kids don't.
19. Corpse found amidst mass of bleach sprayed all over the room, destroying most evidence. Signs that at least 5 people had been here, Haram food supplies, pornography, alcohol and drugs use evident
20. Police reports - limited information on a number of incidents which may be linked / relevant
21. 1/2/61 Homeless / vagrant individual, males, lated 50s, found beheaded in the western end of the city - now tagged as the nature of the beheading matches that of Saday Al'Nasrah. Examining local CCTV showed a Grey delivery truck that can't be positively IDd.
22. 2/2/61 Taxi driver found with both hands cut off, bleeding out round the back of a taxi-rank. Claims to have been attacked by a demon clad in red fire - but slightly unhinged by the attack. Bakir El'Salem, 30 years old, lives locally with his mother. Was mugged, and held against a wall with hands raised over his head, when he was struck from above and behind, and both hands severed in a single blow.
23. Yesterday, a new report put in - 6/2/61 Nahdah - farmer sliced open from shoulder to hip. Reports of a Brown UPS truck in village
24. 7/2/61 Makaz'ash - village shopkeeper struck from behind and back sliced open. Yellow "Water aid" truck parked in the village overnight, on the border with the UAE.
25. Speculative enquiry to the UAE police, got a lead
26. 8/2/61 Arada - small child beheaded and left in a wadi. Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter
Kren Cooper
Two players down this week unfortunately, so no game on Tuesday 16th - we should be back again on the 23rd - though I have *no* idea when the writeup for that will get done, as the following weekend I'm away at our biggest LRP event of the year doing more photography, from the friday through to the monday - and I normally do the writeups on the saturday. So, normal service is very unlikely to be resumed for another week after that. Not sure if I can get enough charge in the laptop to make writing in the field a feasible thing or not....will have to see.

In the meantime though, for your possible amusement - have a thumbnail overview of an emergency short-notice game I ran last night instead!

One person down for our D&D game, so emergency Shadowrun time. The team consists of "Icemane" the Wolf Shapeshifter (now fortunately with Masking), Dr Forman, ex-Yamatetsu cybersurgeon, on the run after a botched extraction, and T-Wiz, the greatest living cyber-mage (ever). Tasked by a Japenese Johnson, to go extract a Japanese researcher at a very limited opportunity visit to a shop, taking the researcher outside the corporate HQ and with minimal security for some reason.

So, into Downtown they go, paranoid as all hell about the omnipresent security, only two blocks over from the Renraku arcology - even more paranoid because they can see tanks and a company of troops manning the cordon at the bottom of the road they're staking out... and they start to investigate the location, finding out that it's some manufactured seedy back alley, looking for all the world like a drug-den smack in the middle of the AAA neighbourhood.

Eventually they get into the shop and discover it's worse - it's Seattle's best kept secret, a massive BDSM warehouse. The target is coming to get his latest batch of toys, and the team have to get him in a very narrow timeframe - and take him uninjured.

They manage to defeat the door lock into the staff area when one of the team "accidently" knocks over a massive rack of silicon cocks and other toys, giving just enough time for the Dr to hack the locks and take out the security system, just before the target turns up. Combat kicks off, and they discover the single bodyguard is a physical-adept with a weapon foci Katana, and it all gets a bit bloody - sword swipes open up one of the team members, while point blank lightning bolts set fire to the bodyguard and melt his face off, and the Wolf shifter has to chase down the target who does a legger while they're distracted, and then a frantic dash for safety before Lone Star or worse - the Army turns up to investigate the noise...

Gotta love a bit of Pink Mohawk!
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 237 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Well – that didn’t go as planned. Not at all.

What I had in mind was the first few news reports to establish a series of locations and crimes, that the team could see were linked in a reasonably consistent pattern. Maybe they’d go to each one to check out the details and get more info – maybe they’d just jump to the last one on the list, or maybe they’d just plot the ranges and move on to one of the next potential spots.

I use a great little tool found at - this lets you plot a circular range from an origin point on the world map. I use this to generate my fuel range map, and plan out where I need to put future smuggler stops to let the team hop around, and it gives a great visual indication of where they can reach. The details you enter are added to the URL, including code for range, origin, colour, borders etc – so they make pretty big links – here’s the fuel map from session 217, after they got some new smuggler stops “unlocked”:
MAP Link

Ugh – pretty ugly URL – but very very useful. Anyway, before the session, I’d marked out the “known” crimes, putting in a bunch of red circles showing the minimum distance travelled, and then some purple circles once the range went up a bit, giving a “donut” that their next stop was *probably* in. What I was hoping was that the team would realise there was a trail of breadcrumbs, and that they would follow along – slowly gathering more data, especially from some of the later crimes where people had been maimed rather than killed, or had not died yet (and probably wouldn’t, if Tads had anything to do with it!) With the superior speed of the tilt-wing, even accounting for the faffing about on the ground and the RP elements, they’d slowly catch up with the other team, closing in on them and then with a bit of careful GM shenanigans, I could have the player team catch up with them just as they’re handing over the painting to the buyer, giving the team a choice as to who to follow / deal with.

Instead they seemed to just flail around somewhat aimlessly. I dropped some hints, had them make some tests on small unit tactics, navigation, psychology, and several other skills to try and give them the idea that there was a trail they could follow – but either they just *really* didn’t get it, or they’re trolling me super hard…

So, the session ended up a bit shorter than usual, as they tried to work out what they were doing, and I tried not to give the game away entirely.

At least that let me finish the writeup before I go away for the weekend to my last big LARP event of the year, without worrying about bashing out several thousand words on Monday when I’m exhausted!

The other item of major note was the sudden introduction of “Blood Magic” – which they’re going to hate me for if they ever realise. You see, Hunter’s player wasn’t here, so I was rolling for him. He did a search on the “Jewel of Muscat” again, and then I rolled for him to translate the text from Arabic to English. Arabic is at 4, so Arabic R/W is at 2… and I rolled…. 2 X 1s. A botchy Mr Botcherson. Oh dear. And because I was rolling, I don’t think the players realised it was a botch (or what the test was for) so they took the bad translation as gospel, and ran with it. They ran SO FAR and SO HARD.

Well, if the players are trolling me, then it’s fair turnabout. And if they’re not – well, sometimes I have a twisted sense of humour. So sue me... 😊

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 23.53413, 58.40645, Time 04:30
• Kai - message to Pranath, call me when you're up please?
• Tads suggests calling Mossad due to weird stuff, Marius does, message re gruesome killings.
• Kai - get Hunter to check Museum website re blood linked items. Average search, botch translate - Jewel of Muscat also known as "the blood ship" used to transfer slaves from invasions to new "homes"
• Team start getting worried about blood spirits, Aswon thinks they need a big warded box, possibly possessed one of the other team forcing them to be sociopaths.
• Marius - need to get on the trail, they're changing jurisdictions
• Check survival for Tads and Aswon. Moving from watering hole to watering hole.
• Tads - they either didn't come in via ground, or weren't killing probably. Maybe get in touch with Keith to see if people turn up.
• Working out ranges and possible routes, max fuel range,
• Kai - want to get at least 1 more murder site surveyed. Shimazu police procedures - remote villages might not have reported in incidents, might not have police. Talk about what the reports are again - confirm that they are either vehicle mask or using PVPs, or a combo of both.
• Marius int check - rate of advance, water+attack, requires a village of some kind to be a likely target.
• Tads - if we go to a village, I can do invisibility and people can run around and check astral, look for signs of attack. Maybe I can go astral and check out the possible targets. Tads goes astral to search. Team discuss sensors and visibility and flux. Tads finds recent burial site in Al Batha, aura of grieving, relatively fresh. Plot circle from there. Get Hunter on a search in Qatar for murders. Kai sends message to Anahita the art dealer in Iran, about the museum.
• Tads - Germaine is not that fussed about the picture (maybe the frame?) but not comfortable about letting it get sold on if it's blood magic based. Marius - it might be empty now if something has escaped from it.
• Tads asking about fuel - range or capacity, maybe they're taking it from the people they murder.
• Kai asks if Tads can scout that roads - effectively not due to movement speeds and searching.
• Kai calls Keith to arrange refuelling " fuck off, it's 5 in the morning", Tads going astral scouting in the zone.
• At 6am, Pranath calls Kai back, Kai says a museum got trashed. What kind of stuff - statues? Paintings. Pretty small - or was it a massive one? No, can send you some info. Pranath doesn't know anything, but will keep ears open.
• Kai planning on sending through details on 6 paintings from the museum, including the target, at around lunchtime.
• Tads - lucks out and find fresh grave in Hawiyah with aura of grief.
• Kai asks about blood mages and killing and stuff - might be says Aswon, very individual
• Aswon - feels like hey are under the influence of *something* - haunting, possession, nomad, trickster spirit - something like that.
• RV at Keiths, wait for dawn and refuel. 800km used = 6000Ny.
• Kai - maybe go to Al Batha and check traffic cams and refuelling stops. Both Marius and Shimazu think this would be atypical.
• Kai - is it worth trying to get ahead - Marius, no, too many choices, too big a search area.
• Aswon - killing might go with the painting, if the team hand it over to the buyer - and our job is to find and punish the team.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 238 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
This week had me stumped, and questioning my abilities as a GM. I really can’t explain it. Between them the team have over a hundred years of TTRPG experience – but they seemed to be stumped by the events here, and the breadcrumbs laid out. Much like the end of last week, they seemed to flail around for a while, wondering where the bad guys could be going, and what their ultimate goal might be, and bemoaning the lack of matrix or magical answers.

After putting up with this for a bit, I stopped the game and told them:
“Look, it’s a breadcrumb quest. Nothing fancy. Try going to one of the sites you know about and look for physical clues – you might learn something useful, ok?”

I was genuinely questioning myself, wondering if I’d had a stroke and not noticed, or had quietly slipped into Klingon while describing the scene – as otherwise I *really* couldn’t fathom why they’d not worked out what they needed to do here. Had I genuinely confused them with some really bizarre narration or description of something?

*scratches head*

Not to this extent, but this is a common issue with setting puzzles or problems in a game – what’s obvious to you as the GM might not be to the players, and might appear to be really obscure or super difficult to solve. In this case though, after taking a good step back, I couldn’t see it.

The clues they had:
1/2/61 Team make it to Muscat - homeless man beheaded, Grey nondescript delivery van seen on CCTV in nearby area
2/2/61 Taxi driver found with both hands cut off, bleeding out round the back of a taxi-rank. Claims to have been attacked by a demon clad in red fire - but slightly unhinged by the attack. Bakir El'Salem, 30 years old, lives locally with his mother.
3/2/61 Appartment cleaner taken captive - Saday Al'Nasrah, 48, Mother of 4, Widow (Anti-piracy Naval patrol), lives nearby and does cleaning to supplement Navy Pension, ward of her husbands brother who lives in Al'Ain. He has had to come to the city to look after the children, he knows about the death, the kids don't.
4/2/61 Appartment cleaner beheaded, corpse found amidst mass of bleach sprayed all over the room, destroying most evidence. Signs that at least 5 people had been here, Haram food supplies, pornography, alcohol and drugs use evident
5/2/61 Break in and fire, forensic investigation revealed the gallery security company guard was found in a dumpster, with his arms and legs sliced open.
6/2/61 Nahdah - farmer sliced open from shoulder to hip. Reports of a Brown UPS truck in village
7/2/61 Makaz'ash - village shopkeeper struck from behind and back sliced open. Yellow "Water aid" truck overnight
8/2/61 Arada - small child beheaded and left in a wadi. Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter

I’d also pulled up a map, showing each of those location, with circles on them showing the minimum and maximum range the enemy were moving each day, creating a “donut of probable travel” – and when you looked at the map it vastly cut down on the number of possible locations they had to go to and check out, and there was a lot less travel involved.

As we got towards the end of the evening though, they’d made it to Al-Batha and found some info on the killing there, then checked the petrol station and got a ‘possible’ on Dice and the vehicle, then drawn a reasonable inference that they’d travel on road to get past the major highways to avoid suspicion, and then head back off-road when it was clear.

That then firmed up the possible locations to travel to next, and headed over, again getting confirmation of a vehicle and a stabbing to keep them on the right path. I actually changed the colour of the vehicle, and had them re-use the brown UPS truck to add further veracity to it being the right targets – and I’m going to quietly re-write the list of future sightings to actually put in a repeating pattern that should be easy to spot, to help keep the team on the straight and narrow.

Hopefully that’ll keep them chasing after the enemy team as they turn north, and they can make up some time, and get close to catching them! Either that, or I’ll lose my sanity…

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 23.53413, 58.40645, Time 07:30
2. Breakfast at Keiths, looking at maps. Team still very confused, thinking target might be Riyadh.
3. Tads, astral scout - Sa'ad, nothing. Sihmah - almost misses it, nothing. Continues arc, finding nothing in the next 2 hours. 09:30
4. Team floundering - Aswon thinking about trying to get sat footage downloaded to analyse.
5. Eventually rule out near Riyadh - to busy / large.
6. Team agree to go back to Al-Batha, to talk to locals.
7. Get to Al-Batha, land in a wadi, around 10am, 30min walk to town. Get to graveyard, get family name of murdered woman. Get Marius to do translation from Kai, to get bonus from body-language / tone of voice.
8. Marius excellent translation, Kai etiquette test good.
9. Details of strike, left shoulder to right hip, noise in garden, details of truck, almost where the team landed.
10. Kai agrees this matches the MO for the team. Edge of town, isolated, low risk.
11. Head to service station to check - ideal fuel place due to busy
12. Tads+Aswon, Find a tiny part of PVP knocked off on the rocks, save for hunter.
13. Look at truck stop, Hunter get CCTV. Finds vehicle from 7 days ago, very pixellated, looks like Dice - though could be anyone.
14. Team head to Hawiyah, team do translation and etiquette. Gas plants are owned by SK.
15. Talk to goat herder, red-demon, sliced from left hip to right ankle, bled out over the next day. Brown UPS truck, left heading north.
16. Marius - firmly believes they are heading to the crescent north. Aswon asks about personel belongings - Shepherd shifty, has taken them. Ask him for them to do psychometry.
17. Shimazu psychometry 5+ successes, good imagery.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 239 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
A delayed update this week as I’ve been on holiday – enjoying the country life in the depths of Ireland – where my phone would ping me every few minutes to tell me it had no signal at all! So, connectivity was non-existent, rather than poor, which delayed everything considerably, and also meant no game for a week.

But, with that out of the way, the team seem to have hit their stride and worked out what they need to do to follow up on things, and actually made some good progress. They worked out their cover story and developed that, had some decent etiquette, charisma and translation rolls, and generally made good calls as they were talking to each of the witnesses / victims etc. They were also mindful of the culture and surroundings, making sure that they didn’t do any obvious magic, kept their lone female out of what they assumed was a male only section of the mosque, and Hunter spent a good while developing a model to work out where they were going to go next (and hiding his meta-human visage from the locals).

As they’d struggled previously, I trimmed down the number of disguises the truck had, and started to give them repeats as a confirmation, and to allow them to feel they were making progress and actually able to predict what was going on, which was a good boost to their confidence – it didn’t really change the plot at all, and it’s easy enough to change the backstory to fit, after all. In fact, something like this is actually easy to turn into a feature – if they manage to capture the enemy vehicle intact, I can make a notable find of the limited memory or processor in the PVP system to make it distinctive and memorable.

They’re now found incidents that were taking place 4 days ago, so another day of flying should see them catching up “just in time” for the other team to have disposed of the painting at a stop, and give them a choice – do they follow the painting and try to recover it, or do they go after the team and make an example of them for Germaine, and run the risk of tangling with a team of nutters.
In this case, I think because the other team have no idea that they’re coming, it will be a fairly one-sided affair unless the team screw up by the numbers – they’ll find somewhere to do an ambush and rip them a new one. The enemy mage is likely going to be neutralised by Tads and her shielding, and as long as they can get through the armoured hull of the enemy vehicle, it’ll be all over very quickly. It’s only if they botch the assault in some way and the enemy team get their minigun spun up that we’re likely to get some issues – in which case Marius is going to regret not having any re-rolls left as he tries to dodge some 15-round fully auto bursts!

I’m looking forward to the reaction when they bump into the enemy team, and what they make of them – Jez/Aswon actually hit the nail almost dead centre when he guessed at the phys-ad having a geas (and I must remember to give him a karma for it) – they actually have a ‘sacrifice’ style geas where they must cut flesh every day – and then of course being amoral pricks, gamed the geas by cutting – just not themselves. With the entire team being grade-A assholes, they all signed on for a bit of gratuitous cruelty, and now it’s going to come back to bite them in the ass…

As I was writing up the narrative, I managed to get some wifi connection and updated my map, and only then realised that the final stop for the night was actually *way* too large for the enemy team to have stopped at. Originally it was going to be one of the smaller ones anyway, but I’d shifted it to be the 2nd possible stop, just to cut down on the team having to do too many investigations – but there’s no way the narrative works with a major town/city… so I’ll ‘update’ them at the start of the next game session – chances are after 2 weeks, most of them will have forgotten the exact details anyway, and will just go with the story as written!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 24.78663, 49.38564, Time 13:00
2. Shimazu collapses, two sympathetic wounds opening up down the back of his legs, a dry-fever of 40 degrees and everything aches from his "old age". A light wound to physically deal with, and a moderate stun to recover from, and he's back in action.
3. Team notice the blood out the trousers, go to help him up to remove trousers - pick up on temperature. Aswon wonders if it's shock - magic background roll - but bad results - possibly weird strain of fab. Assenses - picks up 2nd aura of old man, co-located with Shimazus. He relays this to Tads.
4. Marius - is he a zombie now or something? Cocks gun... Hunter backs off. Tads thinks - Spirit of old man, should fade soon, no power source. Tads explains "this is normal", will lay the spirit the rest soon, it's already fading. Ask Shimazu his thoughts - he says don't try to turn the aura into a spirit.
5. Kai - tell us a story Shimazu, as we're getting twitchy here, and want to know what's going on.
6. Then Shimazu can narrate his experiences to the team - English test for what was said "I'll cut you motherfrakker!"
7. Tads suggests going back to previous sites to see if there is a clue. Aswon - not sure, we learnt something new here, not sure if we would going back.
8. Kai - what about the frakking plant? Aswon - it's an SK facility, not sure if we want to go in there.
9. Look at map, get crescent of villages, Hunter does maths / modelling test to try and predict - gets a best guess on 4 in the middle. Kai - just go for the middle one - spidy sense.
10. Get details of the engineer, at the mayors hours - go there, talk to the mayor - he's in a shirt and trousers. Wonders why he wasn't told the team were coming - pulls out ancient mobile phone. Engineer arm wrapped in blood stained hessian, very wet, very painful. "Who are you" Marius gives the standard speech again. Explains overnight attack, kicked in the back, off balance, flail, cut, they laughed. Flash of red and yellow and orange. Aswon - did it illuminate or light up. No - more like advert clothing, illuminated fibres. Tads gets into position to try and prepare for mind-probe on the engineer.
11. Kai and Shimazu biotech - his wound was stabilised, not really treated. Tads suggest taking him back to the tilt-wing. They fix the arm up ready for a cyber-replacement, then magic healing. While he's unconscious - mind probe, gets some info, female laugh, tusky - ork or troll. Also gets his personal details, to potentially offer him cyberlimb. Gets the info that he subconsciously heard dogs fighting over the limb. Ask the mayor about trucks - get Yellow Water aid, seen leaving on a heading of 350. Hunter navigation check - bet on Al Wafrah
12. 14:30 - heading to Al Wafrah - bigger, but massive patch of nothing desert in the interior.
13. Local directs them to the mosque, Marius won't go in. Explains the Imam is dead, called the next Mosque, they called the police, waiting for people, unable to lay him to rest without an Imam.
14. Marius - we're not the police, international investigators. Crossing multinational borders. Tads has to wait outside, Aswon stays out too - Hunter is at the tilt wing.
15. Respectfully uncover the body, examine the wound - Shimazu edged check - competent hit, high, overhead strikes, strong hit
16. Marius - when we find this team, I'm all for just obliterating them. Aswon - you don't think this is a phys-ad with a geas do you? Some kind of blood-letting compulsion? Tads - ask your spear? Aswon - what you do mean? Oi! Tads - maybe another ancient weapon, with a darker edge. Get details of Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter. Tads -Coming up on possible direction changes, based on geography. Kai- they don't seem to be alarmed / think they're being tracked.
17. 16:00 - Hunter identifies 4 most likely - Ar Rumaylah, Ar Rafaa'iya, Kor Al Zubair or Chavibdeh - all over the border. Some discussion about crossing the borders, Kai - probably land is softer, water is harder, easier to the west - he thinks.
18. Run the border - not a sniff from the border guards, heading for Chavibdeh
19. Kai - what's over that way - the stands, or India if they bend course enough - though odd not to have taken the water. Though odd to keep killing - maybe harder to get away with on water. Marius - they never hide the bodies? Odd. Tads - not doing it to kill though - strange, not all have been deadly. Aswon - rest of team are endorsing this - they're not stopping this from happening. Shimazu gets sight of hunter lit by red combat light, half draws - flashback to the shepherd being attacked.
20. Tads - maybe it's the last thing they're doing before moving on - they're doing the run around. Hunter - doesn't fit pattern for the woman in Muscat - she was in the apartment.
21. Land in Chavibdeh, talk to people. spend 30 mins, no sighting, no alarms.
22. 17:00 - heading to Khor Al Zubair - just landing.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 240 is now published, and can be found:-
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
And we’re finally close to a resolution – after deciding not to engage with the local police at all, they took a bit of a risk and stopped following the trail and (correctly) guessed that the enemy team are heading to Tehran. Leaping ahead they made up ground, and closed in on the city, trying to get a lead on where the enemy was and doing some recon with their drone.

Aswon was prodding Kai for most of the session to call his contact in Tehran, and for some (unknown) reason he didn’t want to until quite late on – so they were delayed in getting the information about the art dealer being in town – which would have been a good confirmation for them if they’d had it earlier.

But, with the news that the dealer was in town, when Marius spotted an armoured limo heading for a derelict building, that definitely triggered his spider-sense, and the team got interested – and then when they saw the target vehicle closing in, it was everyone at action stations!

We have no game next week – Marius is looking at schools for his kid, and with the nature of the upcoming fight, it’s not one I want to do with a player missing. That at least gives me a little more time to get a nice map together for the forthcoming battle, and refine the stats a little.

The players at the moment seem to be going for a full assault, taking on the enemy team AND the art dealer – AND (though they don’t know it yet) the gang that operates out of the hospital. That’s going to be tough proposition for them!

So – here’s a summary of where the team are at Karma re-roll wise:
Aswon 6/12, Hunter 8/11, Kai 3/11, Marius 1/12, Shimazu 0/12, Tads 8/12.

Shimazu and Marius need to be *careful* with what they do, especially Shimazu as he’s the melee focussed one that will certainly be in range of return attacks! They are all unwounded, not fatigued and have no conditions affecting them at the moment, so they’re all “fresh” for the fight. The bird is fuelled up, they have AV loaded in the door machine guns and they’ve got fairly good firepower – Aswon has a 50cal sniper and his hunting rifle, Hunter has a Panther canon and a good assault rifle, Shimazu has a R4 weapon focus sword that he’s attuned to (and he normally uses his reach to lower his target number to 2’s, so he’s pretty slick with it), Marius has several drones armed with ARs or machine guns, and Tads has a pretty hefty stunball and a flock of spirits – but will also be keeping the team almost magic immune with her 7 points of shielding.

However, against them are “Team Unsubtle” – the assholes they met the last time in Tehran (and I’m really looking forward to seeing the reaction when they discover this) made up of:
Modulo – Human street sam with 4d6+10 initiative, light security armour, dikoted spurs and an SMG packed full of APDS ammo.
Mono – Ork phys ad with ambidex Ares Monoswords (and a geas for “cutting” that is the cause of the bodies on the back trail), 4d6+8 init, very mobile with great leap and doing 12M with each sword swing.
Door – troll street sam with 3d6+8 init, laser combat axe in melee doing 15S damage and an APC door as a ‘personal shield’ with built in Burst Fire shotgun (based off an Enfield AS-7 auto shotgun). He’s packing heavy security armour and has a hefty body, so will need some directed fire to take down.
Gorgon – dwarf hermetic mage, with a focus on fire spells and a fire-spell foci. I actually expect him to be almost incidental for direct damage due to Tads – but he’s no doubt going to set the entire map on fire while he tries!
Dice – human rigger, in his APC armed with minigun (10S base damage, 15 round full auto bursts…) – so that may be a significant danger to the tilt-wing if he gets eyes on, especially if he starts throwing his control pool into his shooting, while he’s jacked in (VCR3) Their APC has 12 points of vehicle armour, so it’s also pretty tough to crack, and has Body 7 – so taking that out is going to be non-trivial.

I didn’t expect them to try and hit the meet (and they may change their minds when they’ve had a chance to think about it!) – so I haven’t stated up the art dealer and his bodyguards yet – or the gang in the hospital, so they’re on my to-do list. Potentially with the right spells or tactics, they could turn one side against the other for some *truly* chaotic battle shenanigans, but we’ll have to see!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 30.21104, 47.76738, Time 17:00
2. Aswon, take a gamble hop north, Kai agrees, land at Ar Rafaiya. Marius translation 1 pass and 3 botches, Kai two successes,
3. Parents and younger brother, sweet smell of decay - suspicious and want to see ID. Aswon suggests calling the Mosque back at the previous stop. S-shaped curve, single blade, Shimazu confirms the blade attack. Aswon - judging by the smell, he's not long for this world unless we do something - these people might not let us take him though.
4. Aswon - what if we "argue" that we should be chasing the people and you (Kai) insist that we should stay and look after the son.
5. Hunter spots police car moving in from the east. Calls in the sighting. Kai blessings of Allah and gets the team out - Aswon, Marius ask about the vehicle. Confirm vehicle heading towards Basrah. Get back to the tilt-wing without being spotted by the police.
6. Aswon - are they heading to Tehran? Kai - can you call your friend.
7. Check out the map, look at the ridge lines, work out route - low passes.
8. Kai - leap of faith - just fly up to Tehran and camp out there?
9. Aswon - the thing for Aden - worth getting, if we're going near Aden - otherwise he's gonna be pissed
10. Tads - go there and send spirits out looking for vehicle? Aswon - nah, haunted as fuck. Will lose the spirits.
11. Aswon - call your friend and see if there's a market, would increase the chances of them going there if there is one on.
12. Kai - assuming they're going to Tehran, can we predict where they'll be, for an approach.
13. Navi check from Hunter - degree of uncertainty
14. Aswon - we think we're just gonna kill them do we want the vehicle, cos if not, aerial attack - is Germaine after the painting.
15. Hunter - we can just explain to her I think, and she'll understand based on what's happened.
16. Look at possible endpoints - Tehran, Qom and Arak. Kai - lets head to Arak, take us about an hour.
17. Aswon pressures Kai to call contact again, Kai pushes back. Aswon - did she know what a bunch of murderous fucks they are? Kai - they wouldn't hurt her if they need her to get rid of the item.
18. Message for Marius - Nadia, miss you, when will you be back, and BTW there's a parcel for Hunter. Marius - do we need to treat this like a bomb? Hunter dunno... Aswon - didn't you order the stuff for Aden. Oh yes. Check packing slip - imported from the UCAS. Marius calls Nadia, chit chat, Marius says they are closing in on the job and not too far from home. Treat the parcel as "potentially suspicious, keep it outside maybe". Tads suggest putting it in the trailer, in the lodge.
19. Hunter - if they are going to one of those three, it's a massive change of MO, they've stuck to all little places. Kai - you're not wrong, maybe just going to the outskirts, or keeping a low profile.
20. Kai - they may not have the painting still, they may have got rid of it, and just out on a murder spree! Aswon - though at this point we just want to find them for Germaine, the painting was just to confirm ID.
21. Kai's phone goes, Anahita calling. Art dealer from Germany just arrived in the city. Herr Gustav Liebhermoster. Kai - your contact, do you know them / like them. Kai - if these people we're chasing are meeting them, they're very dangerous. How much are you willing to spend - Kai, several grand. Oh - right, I was thinking hundreds for a fancy meal. Kai - no, willing to spend multi-k. Anahita gives name - Roll for Kai (antiques) and Hunter starts computer search.
22. Aswon - thinking about a plan, trail of blood, do your business - but let us know so we can deal with them after.
23. Hunter 1 success on search - will take a while. Kai - very mercenary, dirty, doesn't care about how it got to him. Aswon - ok, forget that last idea I had. That's not gonna work.
24. Aswon - maybe ask Germaine - she might be his arch nemesis or a rival bidder. Kai - let's NOT mention her or his name to each other then, that's just dodgy.
25. Team rest enroute, apart from Marius flying and Hunter researching. Team have idle discussion about possible stops and how to find them. Marius - if we wanted to refuel before a meet, there's only a few places around Tehran that are still going to be active. Hunter quick nav check, identifies four places likely to be smuggler refuelling stops just short of Tehran, all within about a 60km arc near the city. Fuel stops may be far enough away from Tehran to avoid BGC for an astral scout, Tads thinks.
26. 18:45, level with Qom, 150km from Tehran, only about 25 mins away. Kai - what do you think about astral recon Tads. If we stop somewhere, I'll go with a flock of spirits, it should be manageable. Aim to get about 10-15km from one fuel stop, then let Tads do recon.
27. Tads astral recon, doesn't hit threshold even with a re-roll - determines they are active and available, but doesn't spot anything unusual at any one of them.
28. 19:15, landed outside Tehran, Tads just debriefing team. Hunter checks pattern of disguises - Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter
29. Marius - we're getting close to going back to a place we swore we'd never go back to. Kai - that would mean we'd never go anywhere!
30. Kai - can we tour the roads now, and look for them? Aswon - not a terrible idea, limited options now, they're probably on the roads now, as it's not wasteland or desert. Kai - will our sensors pick them up now Marius? We'd need LOS, and we're looking down, difficult to get specific ID. Count number of roads - 5 probably routes in. Marius - can your spell make one of my drones invisible? Yes. We could send out the vector thrust drone to do a search, looking for the target vehicle. Tads - warns it will glow on the astral. Marius - but I don't want it noticed physically either and people think the government is spying on them and try to take it down. Aswon - more likely to be an evil spirit or creature spot it rather than other mages, based on the city and what happened.
31. Travelled 1500km from Keiths B&B, so they refill the tanks on the aircraft, not far off a full load.
32. Team discuss pros and cons about putting spell on the drone and if it makes it more or less vulnerable. Marius - will have to pilot/ride and observe - it doesn't have good enough sensors on its own. Tads puts invisibility (5) and stealth (3) on drone as it launches.
33. No enemy team spots drone, Marius doesn't spot Unsubtle - but does spot armoured limo turning up near Ghiassi Hospital driving under the canopy to the old A&E entrance. Marius goes away and loiters, and reports back to team. Asks for astral recon - Tads, no thank you. Kai how far away and how long - about 25km, only a few mins. Kai - does the hospital have a helipad? Yes. Marius - no way, ruined building not maintained for 50 years. Aswon - just don't throttle down fully until it's tested. Marius looks for other sites - park, 350 X 1400m. Aswon - park was nasty last time. Marius - we just don't go near the lake...
34. Drone spots the Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter - team start getting ready for takeoff.
35. Aswon - do we crash the meet and just kill *everyone*? Team - hmm. Marius - we have door guns and AV, and can just light them up from 400m up. You can go in on the ground and I can provide fire support with the drone.
36. Tads - will need to drop the spells on the drone to cover us, and can use a spirit to accident their vehicle. Aswon - suggest you try using the terrain against them, it won't be warded, and their vehicle probably will be.
37. Kai - does anyone have a problem with killing these people?
38. Tads - they were reported as having recon drones, and Dice was reported as being ex-miliary. Aswon - good call, better check for their condor drones up doing surveillance.
APC door as a ‘personal shield’

eek.gif eek.gif eek.gif
Kren Cooper
Technically not covered by the rules as written - but I figure a massive troll could make it work - especially with Body 15 and Strength 16.

One of our house rules / modifications is that the worn armour penalties (for both quickness and combat pool) doesn't go off Quickness alone - which was always an important stat anyway - but goes off an average of Body, Quickness and Strength. Otherwise the only workable way to make milspec or heavy security armour remotely usable normally were elves / humans with maxed out quickness...

This way if you're big enough to put on the massive breacher / bomb disposal armour and carry the weight, you can get away with it, and it means that orks / trolls in a street sam role (or as Mr Johnsons bodyguards, or even the nightclub bouncers) can be much more of a significant threat. So, under our table rules, "Door" as he's known could wear up to 12/12 armour, without penalties.

A shield that counts as AV armour is still not covered by the rules either of course - but I wanted him to be a *tough* nut to crack, and the team does have the tools - though it will slow them down. Of course if someone gets behind him or around the shield, then that's a *much* better way of dealing with him. But it also meant giving him a toy/advantage that can be clearly explained and justified (at least in my mind) without being really stealable by the players - they don't have anyone with the mass and strength to carry it and remain mobile, so it's also handy from that side of things.
Thanks for the background explanation. I wasn't challenging the concept, rather marveling at the awesomeness.
Kren Cooper
QUOTE (pbangarth @ Sep 26 2022, 03:28 PM) *
Thanks for the background explanation. I wasn't challenging the concept, rather marveling at the awesomeness.

No worries - didn't take it as a challenge, and more than happy to explain and go through the reasoning - getting feedback at all is great, and I figure if I go through my logic process, then people might point out either stupid loopholes I've overlooked or come up with awesome ideas or extensions to improve things more.

Thinking about the whole concept of using AV armour on a personal basis - I'm inclined for instance to go with a "divide your strength/body (whichever is lowest) by 2 and round down - the result is the max rating of a piece of AV armour you can move around as an individual without being horribly over-burdened.
A pedestrian with stats of 3 could move a piece of armour with AV1. Still technically enough to drop a 9m pistol to a 4L, then down to a 3L with the actual armour. Useful, but not game breaking. A 10S shotgun becomes a 4M after staging.
A good human runner with stats of 6 could move a piece of armour with AV3. You're still soaking the 9m pistol shot, albeit on 2s, and the 10S shotgun also drops to 2s - but you're still having to soak.
A strong ork / troll with stats of 10 can shift a piece of AV5 armour, and auto-bounces both shots now - but they *are* walking around with an APC door held in their hands, and are a very strong individual. And the enemy just need to throw the grenades *over* the shield and wait for the chunky salsa effect to happen... smile.gif
I shudder when I read "chunky salsa". I once ran an adept with great strength and lots of skill in throwing weapons. He threw a grenade up onto a rooftop from which ambushers had us like fish in a barrel in the alleyway below. I rolled all 1s. No Karma Pool left.

The grenade fell down among us.

Kren Cooper
My sympathies pbangarth! Of all the times...

I've spent a bit of time going through Shadows of Europe today, and looking at the Germany section, along with gathering some of the Shadow-lurkers names and the kind of things they comment on to make up a "Shadowland style" article (hopefully) - something to feed to Hunter *just as they're landing* I think and give them some more information, to see if they change their minds, or rethink their plan.

What do you folks think of this - is the style/tone right, and do you think it gives enough information to cause concern without being too blatant?

Guten Tag! Just heard the news that a rare piece is up for sale in Berlin at the moment - being sold by everyone's favourite art smuggler Herr Gustav Liebhermoster. Anyone have the skinny on this?

Invites went out a few days ago to an "exclusive event" hosted in the old Berlin University art campus, with a gallery of 12 unique pieces being offered. So far I've heard of 3 distinct pieces - Gorlagg's "The King of the Trolls", a life size oil painting of King Berthold on his throne, the day of his inauguration, Schmitt's "Cruelty", a sculpture depicting a mother and child killed by gas during the Eurowars, and Laurianellis' "Cleansing", an abstract art piece. Of those three the first is supposedly slightly magically active, thanks to the subject - as long as you subscribe to the conspiricy that King Berthold is actually Kaltenstein. Make of that what you will. "Cruelty" is a superb sculpt, showing the ravages of war. It's as mundane as they come, but a very powerful piece, and widely regarded as the sculptors best work to date. And "Cleansing" is according to a friend of mine, actually a powerful shamanic formula for a cleansing ritual, used by some mages to push back the Black Tide.

I can confirm the rumours about the forumula - it is a powerful spell that was responsible for much of the cleanup along the Pomeranian coastline and the reforestation inland from there. It's highly likely that the owner and author of this piece is trying to track it down and recover it.
Deep Green

They would be if they were still alive. Word is that they managed to track it down to a tender that services several of the arco-blocks, hinting at Proteus involvement. However there was a vicious fire-fight and a number of corporate security teams hunted down and sunk a fast civilian vessel in the area, which was lost with all hands.

That 'civilian' vessel was run by the Dortmunche brothers, and was a well equipped and tough cookie. If Proteus took it down, you can bet they lost some assets during the fight. The brothers never scrimped on their hardware and equipment! My guess is that the ritualist hired them for the infiltration, but the extraction was botched and noisy, and once the ant-hill was kicked, Proteus pulled out all the stops to hammer them flat.

All of these pieces discussed so far are valued mostly for their unique forms or subjects - while not exactly the standard fare for a corporate lobby or executive dining room, they represent a powerful draw for the private art collectors looking for something special.

Liebermoster is a powerful figure in Pomerania - very well connected with all three of the ruling noble houses of Reanka, Sarentin and Telearn. Though he'll never be admitted to the nobility himself, they all value his ability to obtain things for them, providing not just artwork but also items like rare coins, historical artefacts, banners and heraldry. Many of their "trappings of nobility" have been provided after some museum or art display was raided and ravaged.

I heard he's a dragon in disguise himself, and that he uses his powers to help him steal the art work.

Maybe you should go discuss that with Dragonslayer Lapt? Seems like the right kind of crazy to work with...

He's no dragon, but his bodyguards are not to be trifled with. Someone very nearly assassinated him at a meet a few years ago, and that lesson sunk in good and fast. He's been seen at a number of black clinics with his "staff" getting some fairly extensive body-mods installed in them, making sure they're up to the task of keeping him safe when he's dealing with both buyers and sellers.
Tin Man

Those guys freak me out! I ran into them at an art expo last month, and they gave me the willies. They all look so similar, and they just have such a cold, detatched aura to them. Like they're barely human. And they have such a cliched look - black suits and shades with white shirts. So last century.
Jelly Donut

That's because they're close to being zombies. He stuffs em full of cyberware to keep them performing well, and to keep tabs on 'em. Ran into them when we were handing over some artefacts a little while back. Pretty standard smooth glide of well tuned wires, and their skin has that plasticy look - good quality dermal overlay. But there's a bunch of other stuff in them as well. My EW operator said there was a mesh encrypted network set up between em, locked down tight. Still, we were selling, he was buying, and he paid for his stuff, so what do I care?
Big Bad Beeste
Style/tone looks right.

I don't know the full story of your current mission for the players, but this would certainly pique the interest of a few of my old PCs. That Cleansing formula is something else. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of international teams would perk up their ears at the mention of that thing. A certain dragon in South America, perhaps?
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 241 is now published, and can be found added to the main book and the 2 fan-fic sites.

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Welcome back everyone – hope you didn’t miss us too much!
First of all, now that we’re all caught up with the enemy team, here’s the background info I’d put together on the chase through the desert.
• 1/2/61 Team make it to Muscat - homeless man beheaded, Grey nondescript delivery van seen on CCTV in nearby area
• 2/2/61 Taxi driver found with both hands cut off, bleeding out round the back of a taxi-rank. Claims to have been attacked by a demon clad in red fire - but slightly unhinged by the attack. Bakir El'Salem, 30 years old, lives locally with his mother.
• 3/2/61 Apartment cleaner taken captive - Saday Al'Nasrah, 48, Mother of 4, Widow (Anti-piracy Naval patrol), lives nearby and does cleaning to supplement Navy Pension, ward of her husbands brother who lives in Al'Ain. He has had to come to the city to look after the children, he knows about the death, the kids don't.
• 4/2/61 Apartment cleaner beheaded, corpse found amidst mass of bleach sprayed all over the room, destroying most evidence. Signs that at least 5 people had been here, Haram food supplies, pornography, alcohol and drugs use evident
• 5/2/61 Break in and fire, forensic investigation revealed the gallery security company guard was found in a dumpster, with his arms and legs sliced open.
• 6/2/61 Nahdah - farmer sliced open from shoulder to hip. Reports of a Brown UPS truck in village
• 7/2/61 Makaz'ash - village shopkeeper struck from behind and back sliced open. Yellow "Water aid" truck overnight
• 8/2/61 Arada - small child beheaded and left in a wadi. Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter
• 9/2/61 Al Batha - housewife sliced open in vegetable garden (Border between UAE and SA). Red and blue Abu Dhabi Import/Export Co
• 10/2/61 Hawiyah - Goat herder set upon and left leg sliced open. Reports of a Brown UPS truck in village - very unusual.
• 11/2/61 Al Hinah - Engineer digging new village well, left arm amputated at the elbow, Yellow "Water aid" truck
• 12/2/61 Al Warfah - Local Imam disembowled (border crossed into Kuwait from SA) Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter
• 13/2/61 Ar Rafaiya - Teenage boy in critical condition after right leg sliced open in curving pattern (Near border to Iran) Red and blue Abu Dhabi Import/Export Co
• 14/2/61 Nobquan - Goat herder beheaded, intricate carvings into back. Brown UPS truck. Co noticed by farmers.
• 15/2/61 Afus - two baby siblings bled out after someone removed their skin from 90% of their chest area. Yellow "Water aid" truck.
• 16/2/61 Tehran - Rusty White Al-Halal Chicken transporter

Originally I did have more “disguises” for the trucks, but after the team floundered a little, I cut them down and gave them some repeats to work with – the “clue” seemed to resonate with them and gave them an odd sense of accomplishment / victory, or confirmed for them that they’d discovered something important and valuable. I suspect this is one of those perception things, where as the GM with perfect knowledge, things seem obvious and the breadcrumb trail ‘should’ be easy to follow – but from the players point of view, all it takes is one weird comment to send them off down a dead end or confusing side route. In this case it was simple enough for me to change and simplify things behind the scenes, and hopefully none of the players ever realised that I’d dialled the difficulty level down a bit for them, or given them some clues – or guided them back onto the (hopefully well disguised and gentle) railroads I wanted them to follow for this bit of plot.

Of course, if they had decided to just abandon and ignore the quest they could have – they’re never tied to the plotline, but they would have had to deal with their fixer being disappointed with them (though she’d get over it, eventually…)
When I’d been working out the travel plans, I’d planned out a series of daily travels, and marked the co-ordinates and travel distances to give some kind of consistency in their movements and to allow the team to plot them easily – and for me to find all of the tiny little villages on the map again!
1. Muscat>Nahdah=175km
2. Nadah 22.50059119315495, 57.08444159420795 >Makaz'ash = 169
3. Makaz'ash 22.212334,55.531348 >Arada = 234
4. Arada 22.949410848963215, 53.33602183070591 >AlBatha = 224
5. Al Batha 24.139636041574988, 51.57314256791849 > Hawiyah = 235
6. Hawiyah 24.785928,49.329296 > Al Hinah = 250
7. Al Hinah 26.957847324626954, 48.76931074557828 > Al Warfah = 200
8. Al Warfah 28.60103323277198, 48.09690328904927 > Ar Rafaiya = 167
9. Ar Rafaiya 30.027547680438747, 47.70311666893344 > Nobquan = 217
10. Nobquan 31.43065949802019, 49.30952690081466 > Afus = 196
11. Afus 33.02906, 50.0928 > Tehran, 318 km

That gave the ground team a long journey, and the (player) air team a chance to make up multiple days of ground travel very quickly, using the aircrafts superior speed and direct-line ability to travel quickly and then spend time investigating. The hope was that they’d know they were days and days behind, but after the first few investigations realise that they’d made up lots of ground, and could extrapolate out and realise they would catch them fairly soon and get to their “current” positions.
Things didn’t work out quite that way of course – but no plot survives first contact with the players (always worth bearing in mind, and possibly a hard lesson for a GM to learn. The game is the PLAYERS story, set in your background. You have to go where they take the story, and adapt to it – or you might as well start writing scripts and have your actors read out your play. You can guide them, and give them nudges, but sometimes they’ll do the damdest things, and go off on tangents, and sometimes you have to just through a whole chunk of plot away and go with something new (or save the plot for later and recycle it in a silly hat so they won’t recognise it) and see where things take you.

At least most of the time you do anyway. Sometimes railroading is fine because they expect it – like when they’re on an actual train doing some kind of heist, then they’re expecting a very tightly controlled environment with limited options available to them… or if they were doing a job on a space station, and stowing away on the rocket booster… it’s going on one route, from source A to destination B, and there’s very little way to change that. But as a general thing these situations should be relatively few and far between. Subtle railroading is a hard skill to master, and it’s very easy to get the players backs up if you do it wrong. Hopefully it’s not something I mess up too often!

Anyway, they followed along and got the general idea of where to go, and decided to skip the last few parts of the investigation and play their hunch – which got them to the right destination and where I wanted them to be, so ‘oh look, you found a clue’ – and they bump into the limo and the enemy truck, just in time to get to them.

I’d not thought they would initially go for storming the meet, but then they seemed to get that as an idea in their head, so I quickly had to come up with some stats for not only the art dealers guards, but also the gang who call the hospital home and secured the neutral ground:

Liebers guards X 5
Humans, B5 Q5 S5 C3 I5 W5, R5(11), CP7, Init 4d6+11, GK5, KP5
Ares Alpha combat guns, 7M BF+FA, APDS, SL2, 5 points recoil comp, 3/3 armoured suits

Gangers X 40
Humans, All 3s, CP4, Init 1d6+3, GK1, KP1
Smersh-4 SMGs, ex-ex, 6M(8M) BF+FA, No RC, laser sights, wearing 2/2 armour

For minor NPCs, henchlings and cannon fodder, I generally go with a very abbreviated set of stats like that – just enough to work out what they do, and how tough they are, but with no more detail than that. If the players decide to do some weird investigation, I can always try to ad-lib something in on the fly, or just riff off what they’re discussing and picking up from the scene.

In this case, the gangers were just average humans, with very low end submachine guns (from my expanded table of SR3 weapons, where I’d put in a lot of 2nd/3rd world ‘cheap’ knock offs of the book weapons, with reduced stats. I used a lot of these early on in the game to help the players take some of the lucky hits without it being quite so lethal, but it’s also a good way to detail a certain level of professionalism for the npcs – whether they’re using the SMERSH SMG or a decent combat variant like a HK227 for instance) - that would be all on low initiative scores, lucky to get more than a single hit on a long burst from their weapons so dodging would be feasible – but with up to 40 of them coming out in waves or flanking around them represented a threat that could become serious if it wasn’t dealt with. On the other hand, if the 40 of them clustered up in one spot, it’d take Tads less than 3 seconds to knock them out with a single stun-ball without breaking a sweat…

The art dealers guards were a different matter though. With their Ares Alpha’s they should immediately appear as a much more competent and dangerous threat. In their bodyguard suits they wouldn’t be that durable, but they packed a very decent punch with their armour piercing damage shots – so quite ‘glass cannons’. With their good reaction boosting buffs though, they were likely to go quite high in the initiative order, and with smartlinked weapons were also going to get a number of hits on the players if they could get line of sight – and with the team only getting half their normal armour, someone was going to get hurt before they got taken down.

So, to give the team a chance to work out that this might not be a good idea, I fed Hunter some information he ‘just’ happened to stumble onto on Shadowland. Nothing in here should have said that this was definitely a “bad” idea – but it gave them some information to let them know that it carried risks. If they *had* hit both teams, then lead would certainly have been flying, but potentially they could have scored one of the very rare and unique art items mentioned, giving them a really unusual and valuable reward.

As it happened though, they decided to wait, and then saw the enemy team leaving and started their pursuit. The bad guys managed to get a lucky sensor roll on the drone, and picked up the pursuit – so they weren’t completely surprised, and they did manage to get a really good hit on the drone with a firebolt – which also then allowed me to drip feed a bit more information to the team about the mage’s power level. Tads pouted at me after the game and told me that she didn’t want to fight mages as powerful as her, and even stuck her bottom lip out at me… aww. Not that it changed anything!

With the enemy alerted somewhat, they decided to just go for it, prepared their attack and then struck from concealment. Despite the best efforts of the enemy team, they *could not* get a lock on the team through the concealment and Electronic Deceptions / RAMS, and in the end resorted to a very frustrated and desperate blindfire with the minigun (which still came as a nasty surprise to the players, especially to Marius I think – who realised that a hit from that would have probably sent them down with deadly damage and very little chance of dodging!) The mages stunball was (as I’d expected) negated by Tads and her shielding, and the flock of fire-elementals ran into Shimazu and also as expected, got a brutal shoeing.

What I hadn’t expected was Kai and his 2 dice in heavy weapons, and 2 dice of combat pool to roll *exceptionally* well, and get a solid hit with a 6 round burst of HMG fire. Even with the enemy teams 12 point of vehicle armour, they were soaking an 18D hit – so they were still fishing for 6s on the soak roll, and the rigger just ran out of dice, and took a big hit. As we were getting quite late into the session, I took that as an opportunity to have them suddenly smash off the main road and take cover in a building – so we can move to a ground assault phase next week, and get to mix it up at close range.

Based on the idle chatter of the team as we were wrapping up, I’m expecting at least one if not two passes from the air while they continue to pour fire into the enemy teams APC to ensure it’s not just damaged but DEAD dead, and that minigun isn’t a threat to them, before they set down and get ready to take on the enemy team. Shimazu will no doubt lead the charge, and I’ll probably remind him that he’s out of karma pool and needs to be a little careful – but again, I think the team should have this handled – if nothing else moving forward under spirit concealment should tip the odds in their favour, even if the other team are pretty well geared.
With a brutal application of overwhelming firepower, I can also wreck any of Team Unsubtles gear that I don’t want the players to have, but give them a nice fat credstick they got from selling the painting on to give them a nice reward for this leg of the mission.
Once that’s done, with luck they’ll head back to the ranch for a bit of R&R, and we can reset karma pools, award some good karma and bring this arc, and book 8 to a close – and then move on to book 9 and start to hot things up with Dragon plot and the Year of the Comet plotlines really starting to ramp up!

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 35.65371, 51.33002 Time 19:30
2. Hunter finds info on Shadowland about the art dealer - cross loads to the rest of the team. Computer check - knows a few are decent rep.
3. Guten Tag! Just heard the news that a rare piece might be up for sale in Berlin in the near future - being sold by everyone's favourite art smuggler Herr Gustav Liebhermoster. Anyone have the skinny on this?
4. Edelweiss
5. Invites went out a few days ago to an "exclusive event" hosted in the old Berlin University art campus, with a gallery of 12 unique pieces being offered. So far I've heard of 3 distinct pieces - Gorlagg's "The King of the Trolls", a life size oil painting of King Berthold on his throne, the day of his inauguration, Schmitt's "Cruelty", a sculpture depicting a mother and child killed by gas during the Eurowars, and Laurianellis' "Cleansing", an abstract art piece. Of those three the first is supposedly slightly magically active, thanks to the subject - as long as you subscribe to the conspiracy that King Berthold is actually Kaltenstein. Make of that what you will. "Cruelty" is a superb sculpt, showing the ravages of war. It's as mundane as they come, but a very powerful piece, and widely regarded as the sculptors best work to date. And "Cleansing" is according to a friend of mine, actually a powerful shamanic formula for a cleansing ritual, used by some mages to push back the Black Tide.
6. Sepherim
7. I can confirm the rumours about the formula - it is a powerful spell that was responsible for much of the cleanup along the Pomeranian coastline and the reforestation inland from there. It's highly likely that the owner and author of this piece is trying to track it down and recover it.
8. Deep Green
9. They would be if they were still alive. Word is that they managed to track it down to a tender that services several of the arco-blocks, hinting at Proteus involvement. However there was a vicious fire-fight and a number of corporate security teams hunted down and sunk a fast civilian vessel in the area, which was lost with all hands.
10. Ecotape

11. That 'civilian' vessel was run by the Dortmunche brothers, and was a well equipped and tough cookie. If Proteus took it down, you can bet they lost some assets during the fight. The brothers never scrimped on their hardware and equipment! My guess is that the ritualist hired them for the infiltration, but the extraction was botched and noisy, and once the ant-hill was kicked, Proteus pulled out all the stops to hammer them flat.
12. Krabbe
13. All of these pieces discussed so far are valued mostly for their unique forms or subjects - while not exactly the standard fare for a corporate lobby or executive dining room, they represent a powerful draw for the private art collectors looking for something special.
14. Corpshark
15. Liebermoster is a powerful figure in Pomerania - very well connected with all three of the ruling noble houses of Reanka, Sarentin and Telearn. Though he'll never be admitted to the nobility himself, they all value his ability to obtain things for them, providing not just artwork but also items like rare coins, historical artefacts, banners and heraldry. Many of their "trappings of nobility" have been provided after some museum or art display was raided and ravaged.
16. Sociallite
17. I heard he's a dragon in disguise himself, and that he uses his powers to help him steal the art work.
18. Lapt
19. Maybe you should go discuss that with Dragonslayer Lapt? Seems like the right kind of crazy to work with...
20. Conspir-I-see
21. He's no dragon, but his bodyguards are not to be trifled with. Someone very nearly assassinated him at a meet a few years ago, and that lesson sunk in good and fast. He's been seen at a number of black clinics with his "staff" getting some fairly extensive body-mods installed in them, making sure they're up to the task of keeping him safe when he's dealing with both buyers and sellers.
22. Tin Man
23. Those guys freak me out! I ran into them at an art expo last month, and they gave me the willies. They all look so similar, and they just have such a cold, detached aura to them. Like they're barely human. And they have such a cliched look - black suits and shades with white shirts. So last century.
24. Jelly Donut
25. That's because they're close to being zombies. He stuffs em full of cyberware to keep them performing well, and to keep tabs on 'em. Ran into them when we were handing over some artefacts a little while back. Pretty standard smooth glide of well tuned wires, and their skin has that plasticky look - good quality dermal overlay. But there's a bunch of other stuff in them as well. My EW operator said there was a mesh encrypted network set up between em, locked down tight. Still, we were selling, he was buying, and he paid for his stuff, so what do I care?
26. Big Bad Beeste
27. Tads - suggest we wait until after the deal, Germaine doesn't want the painting. Aswon - I agree. Hunter - our beefs not with him, we could wait until after he's gone. Aswon - as long as we're not being indiscriminate.
28. Marius - so whats the consensus - go in with surprise, or wait. Aswon - rather not attract attention. Hit the other team, that's what Germaine wants. We don't normally do hits, but this team needs putting down.
29. Tads - can advise Germaine about the berlin art sale, maybe she wants to follow up.
30. Aswon - don't tell her that, we're not off to steal from an art auction
31. Marius - I'm not going to SK heartlands. Aswon - it's a free city isn't it? Marius - don't care.
32. Landed at edge of park, concessions area, 1000m from hospital.
33. Hospital - 14 stories, top 9 ruined and collapsed, bottom just about inhabitable, though lots of rubble laying around. Surrounded by smaller apartment buildings, 5-6 stories, mostly collapsed. It looks like the hospital was caught by incidental fire, rather than targeted. Evidence of fire / inhabitation. Hospital is most intact in the area, not that it's saying much
34. Kai thinks about who is coming/going first - they will have arranged something, but could go either way.
35. Map shown and described.
36. Tads - can we hack their vehicle? Marius - in theory yes, in practice probably not.
37. Aswon - wait for the deal to go down, then take off and hose them out of the side doors.
38. Marius looks at terrain and tries to analyse cover / canyon tracing or more open terrain. Explains about resource to fly / avoid damage.
39. Tads - get a spirit to go do accident on the wheels of their vehicle. Aswon - wait until they're in, they have a mage, need to break LOS. Perhaps go loiter in the more built-up area. Marius - they could see us. Aswon - we are concealed, its night, pretty good odds.
40. Half a dozen gangers come out and take up concealed positions, see if they spot the drone - no. Marius puts live feed up on screens.
41. Marius vehicle design check - analyse weight and ride, vehicle is all wrong, doesn't make sense, very low on treads, may have spaced armour. Tads - will that cover the top? Marius - especially the top. 6 wheel, difficult to stop. Could hide all kinds of nasty surprises.
42. Aswon - ok, new plan. Follow them, wait for them to stop somewhere, get a sensor lock and just follow them until they stop for the night? They do have more legs, but they might not want to go anywhere far... Tads - can we get an AoD tracker on them? Marius - tricky... have to get up close. Tads - maybe my spirit could deliver.
43. Team come out, get into their vehicle - times up. Kai - what are the weakest points? Marius - drivers windscreen, wheels.
44. Marius takes off, Kai on 1 door gun, Shimazu armours up. Kai checks on spirit status with Tads. Hunter moves to rear ramp. Aswon moves to warded door with 50 cal.
45. Enemy team heading for main road, to turn either N or S, team head south, ready to pursue N if needed. Team turn north, spot drone, lash with lidar, Marius detects and backs off.
46. open the party with a firebolt, 4 success, Marius dodges with 3, 8D drops to 4S firebolt, no success on soak, drones takes serious damage. Drops feed, Marius pulls it back and away, they spot the firebolt comes from the front of the vehicle.
47. Marius low and fast from straight behind, then climb and peel to port,
48. Tads assenses - at least a F8 firebolt. Then a F8 spirit ball, bounces off Tad's shielding. Marius sensor check - they are looking, but not locked up. Breaks up and port, swings Aswon into position. Marius goes full noise, max EDs and flux.
49. Aswon shot with 50 cal, gets 1, buys 1, hits and does Light damage. Tads does a trid phantasm, 1 round smoothing, swaps locations in flat plane ahead. Hunter shoots panther cannon, 20D non-AV, hits roof, disintegrates. Don't have a lock on the tilt-wing yet
50. Marius continues to bank left, Hunter shoots again, a bit more debris from the top, not as much as last time.
51. Sensor check from Marius, spots the shroud coming off - Tads spots the camo/concealment/vehicle mods
52. Kai into position, 6 round FA burst - hits for 18d, soaks a little, but good hit. Enemy lurches across road onto other side of median.
53. F6 fire elementals burst from van to head to tilt-wing. Hunter shoots again, now no effect, swaps from panther canon to door gun.
54. Dice gets proper pissed and fires into the flux, FA minigun, Marius stands craft on the side to avoid FA burst.
55. Fire elementals close in, Tads waits for them to come in through unwarded door. Shimazu kills it instantly. Tads sends 1 spirit to accident their vehicle - ineffective.
56. Enemy team bail into a building while the team circle and close, abandoning vehicle and taking cover with equipment.
57. Team spot Unsubtle and recognise.
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 242 is now published, and can be found added
Added to the end of Book 8:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

This is the end of “Book 8”, bringing it to 400 pages and just shy of 260,000 words, and the running total for the whole campaign to 2671 pages and 1.7 million words. If you’re keeping up – well done, have a cookie.

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Unfortunately Kai couldn’t be with us this week – work kept him late – but we’ll normally run with one person down unless they were critical to the plot, with their character going in the “blanket box” and generally taking a back seat. As this was going to be a ground assault, which is definitely not Kai’s specialist area, this was no problem and it was very easy to arrange for him to stay on the chopper.

At first the team seemed to pause, and I wondered if they were going to leave the enemy with no vehicle and just move on – but once people again re-iterated what a bunch of psycho nut-bags they were, and that it only took one of them to have the vindictive flaw to want to hunt us down, that may have sealed the deal. If I happened to be smirking at the camera while they mentioned the ‘vindictive’ thing, and the players took that to mean something – well, that’s them meta-gaming, right? And they deserve everything they get (especially as it wasn’t true).

A quick landing, and a new temporary door made in the building, and in they charge – and Shimazu slams into the enemy troll and as expected wins combat handily. And then looks slightly concerned as he bounces off the trolls high body anyway. We start the combat rounds proper after rolling initiative, and this happens again, and there’s a sudden dismay starting to creep into Shimazu’s face as he works through the logic:
• I can win combat, every time – I just have more dice, and even with troll reach to counter, I have attunement.
• When I win combat, my attack is mostly neutered by his very high impact armour. What’s left is easily soaked by 15 body.
• I can bypass the armour by calling the shot – but that pushes my target numbers up to the point where I may not win combat easily – or at all.
• If the troll hits me, I’m soaking a horribly high strength dikoted axe attack. And I don’t have the same level of armour.
• And I’m out of karma pool. Like…completely out. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
• I need the rest of the team in, to help me get friends in the melee modifiers if nothing else – so I can AFFORD to call the shot – or I can never take this monster down…
I think this is the first time he’s run into an opponent that he just couldn’t hurt effectively, and I could see him reaching for ‘other solutions’ such as the hand-gun as he floundered a little bit – but from a GM perspective I thought it was nice to be able to remind him that while he’s exceptionally good and dangerous with that sword – he’s not got an “I Win” button.

For reference, here are the stats of the enemy team – feel free to ask if any of the abbreviations or notations don’t make sense!

Modulo - augmented human with a cyber-larynx after taking a knife in it during a fight. Good reactions, dermal plating, heavy armour, electronics and computers, SMG
B6 Q7 S6 I5 C3 W5 R10, CP8, Init 4d6+10, GK 12, KP 8
Light security armour with helmet 6/5, Smartlink-2, voice modulator. Cyber eyes with LL, FC, Ultrasound, Camera, router. Headware memory. Implanted tac radio encryption 3, Paired dikoted spurs (10S), Wires 3 (beta).
HK-227S, 28 rounds APDS, Underbarrel weight/personalised grip, 8M base damage SA 11S burst, RC of 5 total.

Mono - female ork phys ad with duel wield ambidex 8 ares monoswords and catsuit with colour changing el wire, improved blades, jumping, senses, B+E specialist.
B8, Q7, S9, C3, I5, W5, R6, CP 8, Init 4d6+8. GK 10, KP 7
2 X Ares Monoswords, reach 1 (12M each), Armoured catsuit 2/2 with EL wire. Great leap 4 (1), Improved reflexes 3 (4,Geased, Cutting), Improved hearing, Ultrasound, Flare Comp, Smell (1), Improved skill - edged 4(2). Metamagics - Centering S+A, Centering-Edged, Masking, Improved Masking.
Skills: Edged 8(12), Centering (chanting) 6. Athletics 6, Stealth/sneaking 5/7, Electronics 6, Electronics B/R 6.

Door - troll, ex bouncer, laser axe and massive combat shield made of AV armour, high strength, but not quick or high WP
B15, Q5, S16, C2, I4, W3, R4/8, CP 6, Init 3d6+8. GK 14, KP 9
Laser combat axe, reach 1+troll 1, 1/2 handed (15S/21S), APC door shield (6 points vehicle armour). Wired reflexes 2, Eyes with LL,FC, Thermo, Zoom. Smartlink.
Heavy security armour with helmet+forearm guards, 8/8, with anti-taser 6, anti-fire 6, BF shotgun with pistol grip, can be mounted in the door. Modified Enfield AS-7, 8S SA, 11D BF, RC of 2 on the gun, +2 for strength.
Shotguns 6, Pole weapons 8, Athletics 5, Stealth 4, Intimidation 4,

Gorgon - dwarf hermetic with a penchant for red / fire spells
B4 Q4 S3 C6 I7 W8 R5 CP 9, Init 4d6+5. GK 6, KP 10,
Spellfoci (Fire) R4, spellslinger (Magic 8 ) - fireballs (7), firebolt (8 ), reactions 1 on SF (ruby ring), firewall-6 on SF (ruby necklace), hot potato (5), ignite (5), spirit ball 8, G3, masking, and physical prowess (2 X pain resistance) ((chance for tads to penetrate masking and spot power to learn technique))
Spellcasting 8, Spell pool 8

Dice - human, rigger 3, drives the team vehicle and uses a couple of condors for recon. Blue combover hair, slender, ex-military
B4, Q6, S4, C3, I6, W6, R6, CP9, Init 1dd6+6 / 4d6+12
IWS Mk6 Armed drone 4/4, Speed 35, Accel 3, Body 2, Armour 4, Sig 6, Sensor 3 - armed with splat glue gun (Str 6 to break free)

Vehicle = Saab Wolverine (APC, P163 R3, quasi variant of LAV-93 Devil rat,
Handling 5/4, Speed 75, Accel 5, Body 7, Armour 12, Sig 4, Auto 2, Pilot 1, Sensor 3, Cargo 12, Load 2000, Seating 2+2b (metahuman adj), Entry 3h+1r, Fuel Diesel-300l, Econ 2km/l, Range 600, Chassis APC (Wheel), SI 2.5, Avail 16.24 days, Cost 750,000
Small turret with Saab Thunderbolt minigun: HMG Ranges, 10S base, 15 round FA bursts, Gunnery recoil comp of 9, SL2 integration, giving +4 mod to hit. Turret is disguised in a replaceable extruded "top" fairing, folds out around a thin frame to disguise / hide the vehicle, making it look like a hi-top version of a delivery truck.

As a team, they were reasonably well equipped and while maybe not “prime” runners, they were certainly competent and not to be taken lightly – such a shame they had a very high asshole count.

The fight lasted only one combat round really – by the end of that first full round Door was out of Karma Pool and Good Karma, and was on 9 boxes of damage, so the end was inevitable and I hand-waved the next round, leaving the players to tidy up and grab some loot. The two sustaining foci made Tads happy – though she then immediately realised how much karma the big one was going to take to bond – and they managed to recover some other useful stuff (such as the credstick with pay for the painting from the art dealer) before getting back into the air and heading home.

With them having finished their hunt, and the major expedition they’ve been on for a while, it was certainly time for Karma Pools to refresh and for Karma to be awarded. On my “enormous shadowrun tracker of doom™” spreadsheet I have a tab dedicated to karma, and have a list of team awards for the major plot objectives as well as a table to fill in for individual awards – normally I do a quick recap through the episodes and look for cool stuff the players have done to start populating this, but I also tell the players they should be keeping notes, and to claim for stuff. So, the start of next weeks session is likely to be taken up with some ooc admin on awards of karma and upgrading skills, and possibly a little downtime. I suspect we’re going to be looking at 25+ karma (It’s been 24 play sessions since there was last an award…) so initiation may be an option for some of them, and I’m sure Tads wants to learn some spells, which means astral quests to help out with that.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session, to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Wednesday 16/2/2061, Location: 35.67591, 51.34556 Time 20:15
2. Aswon - are we definitely taking them out. Marius - I am happy to do that, but either we trash the vehicle and leave, or we wipe out the entire team, with no chance of anything living or we'll be looking over our shoulder forever.
3. Tads - they're in, in an ambush position dangerous for us. If we take out their van, isn't that enough?
4. Marius - happy they don't have a lock on our vehicle, but could they have a magical trace on the wards?
5. Shimazu - 2nd time we've bumped into them, we operate in the same kind of rough area - we might run into them again.
6. Hunter - they're unsubtle - maybe we can just trash their rep on Shadowland. More than one way to hurt a team.
7. Kai - take out the truck, team do that. Trash their vehicle, Tads keeps astral overwatch.
8. Look at building, planning sky assault or HMG/panther extra doors. Front windows covered with rubble.
9. Marius looks for electronic footprint. Lifesigns in the middle, electronic nearer the back.
10. Aswon suggest blowing a hole in the roof while Hunter drops grenades in through the hole. Team agree to go with that.
11. Aswon panther canon blows 2 holes, one on life signs, one off to the side to herd. Hunter drops grenades in from MGL6 - both scatter quite wide. Firing IPE grenades.
12. One of the enemy does blind fire up through the hole - 3M after vehicle armour. Life signs move towards front door, e-sig towards the back. Team open up with HMG and just riddle the building - use 39 (Kai), 36 (Hunter) and 35 (Aswon) AV HMG. All dead but one target.
13. Tads - I could go scouting. Aswon - no, that's all kinds of dangerous, you'll get your head cut off. We need me and Shimazu to go in.
14. Shimazu - can we just go through the wall, blow a hole?
15. Marius touch and go, drop most of team off, keeps Kai on door gun. Tads put spell defence on tilt-wing, shielding up on team.
16. Hunter fires panther cannon, excellent shot, blows a 2m hole in the wall.
17. Shimazu charges in, Troll attacks, Shimazu hits, but is soaked.
18. Roll init
19. Aswon 15, Hunter 14, Shimazu 26, Tads 19, Troll 13
20. Shimazu first, HtH, Troll gets 11, buys 5 = 16. Loses by 1. Soaks 9m
21. Tads - sends spirits to attack
22. Aswon - steps in to HtH, 11 vs 5, 10D - soaks.
23. Hunter - moves in for 3 round burst to flank/rear, rr+2nd rr, 5 success, 12D apds. Gets 4 with a RR, buys 4, takes none
24. Troll - attacks Hunter, beats by 4, Hunter buys 5 and disengages
25. Shimazu attacks, wins, but soaks.
26. Tads - delay
27. Aswon - called shot to bypass armour. 10D - soaks to an M.
28. Hunter - FA, 7 round burst, 3s to hit, massive hit, one on soak, buys one, s+M
29. Shimazu quick draw and shoot to the head, misses.
30. Next combat round, finish him off.
31. Stab anyone with cyber-eyes with taser staff to wreck footage. Loot the bodies, find the credstick from the art-dealer, electronics are wiped apart from recent map.
32. Get sustaining foci - increase reflexes on a gold ring with a small single ruby, F6 was a necklace with 6 rubys in gold/silver filigree cages. Mono's swords have their own BGC of 2
33. Team head back to the ranch, 524km 22:00 ETA.
34. Tearful reunion with Nadia, KP refresh
Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - and welcome to another update for the Smuggler campaign. Episode 243 is now published, starting Book 9 of the series!
Book 9:
The story at FanFiction:
The story at Archive Of Our Own:

Here's the "behind the scenes" from this week's run:
Good evening all! It’s time for Book 9, and a whole new series of adventures for the smuggler team!

Having finished the man-hunt for Germaine, it was time to award Karma – with the team getting between 25 and 28 karma each for the 24 sessions played since the last award.

Here’s how the characters broke down / spent their awards:

Hunter – raised his Navigation from 2 to 3, Electronics from 2 to 3, Stealth from 5 to 6, and Specialised in Heavy Weapons into Panther Cannon, buying firefighting at 1 and Dutch at 1. Of those, he’s been using all of the skills in-mission except the stealth, and I was happy to count them as insta-buys / time spent on training completed – so it was mainly the Stealth increase he was training up during the week of downtime at the ranch. He’s now up to Karma Pool 12 and 251 Karma earnt, and goes into the next mission with 22 Good Karma on hand.

Marius – Raised his etiquette from 2 to 3, Gunnery from 3 to 4, Arabic from 3 to 4, Bought sensor blackspots at 1, Border procedures at 1, then raised to 2. Like Hunter, all of those are skills he’s been using in-game, so were fine IMO for insta-buys. His big spends however was pushing quickness from 5 to 6 and strength from 4 to 5 – so that’s what he spent an entire week working on.
I also asked him a question he’s only previously heard asked to Aswon. “Hey, Marius – do you want to spend 5 Karma on your cyberware?” He stopped and looked at me, everyone else stopped and made an “oooh” noise, and he suddenly felt very ‘on the spot’. In the end curiosity won out, and he said yes - so he got to advance his ‘campaign special’ one rank. While Aswon’s spear gave him shielding, and then some fire resistance, Marius has very experimental cyberware – a cutting edge design from Ares. So, with a big firmware patch, he got to upgrade and got some bonus quickness and reaction out of it – and Aswon’s player immediately put 2 and 2 together and said “well, looks like you actually got some move-by-wire”. He’s nearly right, too. *wink*
That puts Marius onto Karma Pool 12 as well, with 258 Good Karma earnt, and 5 good karma remaining.

Shimazu – went for the big guns, and initiated again, pushing him up to grade 8. That used up 26 karma, so there’s not really room for anything else – and he went with a custom metamagic ability called ‘Sword Focus Ki’ – this lets him use his distance strike with his sword. He also put a bunch of his powerpoints from the initiation into Attribute Boost (strength) to help him deal with stuff like the trolls in the future. He’s gonna hit like an absolute truck after this – but the drain could be a handful too!
Shimazu is now on Karma pool 12 as well, 256 good karma earnt and 9 remaining.

Kai went with improving his heavy weapons from 2 to 3, athletics 3 to 4, smuggling routes from 5 to 6 and his etiquette from 6 to 7, along with buying Arabic at 1 and improving Azerbaijani from 1 to 2. His big spend there of course is the etiquette, but as the teams Face, he does a lot of the negotiations and interactions with NPCs, so that’s hardly a surprising route for him.
He’s now also on Karma Pool 12, with 250 Good Karma earnt and 6 remaining.

Aswon – also went for initiating, using the saved up ‘deed’ for defeating the horror’s plans, making his rise from grade 4 to 5 only cost him 15 karma. Plumping for the metamagic of Infusion, he can now shift his powers around and boost some of his skills at need, taking a corresponding loss of power from other abilities when the Infusion timer expires. He’s not chosen his power points yet, so he’s got 1 PP worth of abilities to buy/develop when he needs to.
Aswon tends to be one of the more proactive players, and normally gets a bonus point or so per run for funky ideas, so he’s managed to cross the threshold to KP13, with 271 karma earnt, and 20 in the bank ready to spend.

And last, but certainly not least – there’s Tads. She’s spent a bunch of money and karma on buying and bonding new foci – a F3 sustaining foci for her Improved Charisma spell (and if she goes all in on the casting and throws a re-roll, then potentially she could get a +3 charisma, taking her to 9 – with a corresponding increase in the number of spirits summonable, and also easily then managing the increased drain to go for Force 4 great forms for the team, rather than the current Force 3 – which will give them a significant boost!), and two Force 1 for a lightning aura spell she intends to use on Aswon and Shimazu. Along with that she’s worked on upping her stunball from force 5 to force 7 to keep pace with the increasing level of threats the team are facing, and learning a f5 agony spell to give her a different tool / option for dealing with opponents. She’s also pushing polearm from 4-5 (over the linked attribute, so costing her more) and paranormal creatures from 3 to 4 – both skills she’s been using consistently as well.
That puts Tads on Karma Pool 13 as well, with 269 karma earnt, and 5 karma remaining.

With a solid week of downtime needed for Shimazu to do his initiation, that set the minimum time, so it was “training montage” fast-forward o’clock. They reported in to Germaine and Aden, and that triggered the next piece of plot. On getting to the mountain and handing over the rhenium-tantalum device to him, and veiled hints at surgery, the team spent a solid minute mocking Hunter who was apparently now “going to get a dragon-butt plug”. Oh well, at least they were happy… 😉

That sets them up to go back to Turkey and take out the artillery unit that is firing enhanced chemical shells up into the Kurdish controlled areas, destroying the biome up there – so at least it’s something the magic users will be happy about. They immediately went to town trying to get hold of some big pew-pews to deal with military grade armour and threats, so that sucked away >50k of their cash. Doing the job for Aden is a requirement (because despite being quite tough now, they are still small, crunchy and would taste good with ketchup in a fight with a great dragon…) – and though they don’t know it yet, the ‘device’ is the unlock item for Hunter’s special campaign item.

Next up, Saito gave Shimazu a call – this is a mission to take them to a Sader Krupp launch facility in the former USSR, to recon and then sabotage one of the “probe race” rockets, and to also meet another team. This is going to be a high paying mission, but with plenty of risk and some fairly stiff opposition. Blowing up a rocket during orbital boost will certainly get some attention focussed their way!

And last of all, Johanna from Maersk wants someone she’s worked with before to deal with some marauding SK threats against her oil fields. This is a mid-pay, mid-risk job for the team. But, trying to do all three in the timespan allowed will be very tough, so they may need to drop one of them and disappoint a contact – time for them to decide who they want to keep sweet!

And of course, doing either of jobs 2 and 3 will put them on Lofwyr’s radar somewhat, which is going to make Marius *ecstatic* with joy.

And as usual, here are the notes from the game session to compare / contrast with the narrative:
1. Thursday 17/2/2061, Location: 40.02426, 48.95799 Time 07:00
2. Tads out for morning prayers - disturbed by the smell of burning pine trees and the sound of roaring fires, shaken - no sign/smell/hearing when she investigates
3. Aswon asks team - master of self, master of the spear - which? Or both - will need a month+. Marius and Hunter are ok with this.
4. Tads - strength or polearm. Aswon advises poles. Upgrade stun ball from F5 to F7, 7k, may take weeks. Wants to spend 45k on improved charisma SF. With more charisma, stronger minion spirits. Looked through Gorgon spell list, hermetic - ick. Flame aura no - but lightning? Does Shimazu want - emphatic yes. Aswon wants as well. Why not both... Also considering Agony spell...
5. Back to Aswon, undecided on path. Hunter suggests infusion. Kai agrees. Hunter - adds flexibility. Aswon asks Shimazu - he likes being one with the weapon. but, your skills come from you, not the weapon, you're already going down that route.
6. Evening of Thursday - Marius - system log at 80%, please download. Hook up through Hunters deck and supply.
7. Hunter shows dossier to team about Unsubtle. Tads uncomfortable with that - they're dead, but may lead other people to be interested in them. Kai - does it include art dealer - Hunter, no. Tads offers mindlink to show Germaine exactly what happened. Germaine might want to find art dealer - Tads, no, Germany. Kai - don't jump to conclusions - he *might* be going to Germany, but might not. Tads - they signed their own death warrants with their behaviour though. Kai - we ought to let her know, and tell her about the art dealer. Ask her about if ok to put details up on Shadowland about the double crossers. Offers fuel value to the bowser at the ranch. works it out, about 3k litres.
8. On the credstick taken from Unsubtle: 184,951 Nuyen
9. Tads orders stuff, initiating
10. By day 7, They contact Aden - ahh good, about to contact you anyway. Meet me at the same place as before, sunset tomorrow.
11. Go to Aden, land, where is the device. Then a job to Turkey to take out the arty. Message to Hunter directly - don't eat / drink after lunchtime. Kai asks about fuel budget - steal from the army barracks. Tads asks if she can ask. Yes, She asks. It will help. Make you stronger. You may go now.
12. Fly back home - Hunter, huge message waiting, Ares Firmware update. Check it over, analyse, Kai medical analysis - looks fine.
13. Upgrade time. 5 min coma. Gets upgrade bonus.
14. 9 days since back to the ranch. Initiation all done, small sustaining foci got.
15. Aswon wants to get ammo - AV / explosives. Wants to pump contacts
16. Aswon gets on to Germaine - no AV/APDS, but Panther AV, 400 Nuyen per round - 50 available, buys them all. Hunter sends flowers. IPE grenades. C12 and detonators+ C4. Great Dragon ATGM X 4 7.5k
17. Talk about getting on to Patrick as well.
18. Germaine comes back with some APDS for rifle, and smg/pistol, up to 3 boxes per size, and 1 box of 100 AV HMG, but at +1 SI.
19. Saito - Baikonur job, 1250km from Ranch. Long range surveillance, hard security target, western Asia. Shimazu, let me check with the team, got a meeting with a dragon, *excuse me* - yeah, it's a thing, let me check and get back to you.
20. Kai - big smiles, Johanna - ask for help with SK Pests
21. Tads - doing a run to the Tashkent temple to check. Then checks Nenet tribes area - appear to be fine.
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