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Kren Cooper
Evening all!
So, my players have told me that they want to look at doing some of their upcoming travel as “legitimate flights” rather than flying under the radar – this is for my SR3 “Smugglers” game, but I figure the overall concepts are applicable regardless of the version, and I’m curious to see what anyone else feels about the situation.

At the moment, they are in Japan, just west of Tokyo. They need to work their way down to Papa New Guinea, then effectively go back on their course, back through Japan, up towards the Bering Sea, across to Alaska and then down the west coast of the US, ending up in California for the job they’re doing – giving them this kind of routing:

Japan - Taiwan - Philippines - Papa New Guinea - Philippines - Taiwan - Japan - Yakut - Athabaskan Council - Timshin - Salish - UCAS - Salish - Tir Tangire – Calfree

As part of my prep, I plopped 15 different smuggler bases, scattered along the route, to allow them to refuel and make some new contacts, as well as pick up missions and have some potentially hostile encounters. Travelling ‘legit’ will allow them to bypass the bad stuff, but also miss out on the good stuff of course – so I’m happy for them to have the option.

What I’m wondering though, is how to handle this? They’ve got a bunch of fake IDs obtained from various sources, ranging from rating 3 to rating 5, and for Marius (our rigger character), they all have a flight licence included. So theoretically, he should be able to file a flight plan and fly commercial from one airport to another, buying fuel legitimately and work their way down through the civilised parts of the world, only really needing to go to the smuggler bases as they work across the Bearing Straights due to a lack of range.

How I’ve done this before is to give them hassles / headaches with the paperwork – traffic control / radar stations want flight plans filed in advance to allocate airspace, they want transponder codes and for the craft to follow directions, they need craft details to do checks of airworthiness certificates and insurance cover, and they require routes to be split into legs and ensure that pilots have mandated crew rest periods. It’s safe – but “big brother” is hassling them for details and making them plod along, and sometimes take longer than they wanted – but that’s the cost of behaving like other commercial pilots…

With them potentially wanting to do more of this though, I’m looking at trying to come up with a slightly more robust system that makes sense to the players and lets them evaluate time vs costs vs hassle… so this is what I’m looking at:
  1. Filing a flight plan – make a “checkpoint verification table rating” roll vs the fake ID (I’d use the table on P227 of Shadows of Asia for most of these) – giving between 1 and 5 dice to roll vs the rating of the ID to spot for inaccuracies or glitches in the paperwork or transponder details.
  2. Time to file the flight plan / obey all local rules and regulations – use a number of hours = the control rating for the local RTG, representing how bureaucratic / tightly monitored the admin is for the location.
  3. Noticing discrepancies or other unusual behaviour – make a sensor test from the “unauthorised border crossing table” for ground crew or staff at airports to notice that the craft that has landed might not match the stated paperwork, or is full of dodgy shadowrunners compared to the stated manifest. From there, it might be a random roll as to what they do if they notice – ask for a bribe, call in backup, or notify their underworld patron that someone needs to “come to an understanding” with them… �� Either way, I can keep a tally for how many “marks” the craft acquires during its travels, almost like a decker running through the matrix, to see how much official attention it attracts (and potentially cueing up hiring an NPC decker to do something about it at some stage!)

Hopefully then that gives a sliding scale of hassle that they can somewhat predict and is in line with the area that they’re getting in or out of, that should be able to be applied for any legit travel they try to do.

The same info is presented in Shadows of North America and Shadows of Europe (and I might be able to find the same stuff for the work done on South America and extrapolate stuff out for Africa) to at least make sure everything hangs together in a framework.

But - opinions from other GMs and players very welcome here! What do you think? Are there factors I’m overlooking for private flights in and out of commercial airports do you think?
If they have the money for their own legit plane, there's a lot less red tape. Don't want to upset the people important enough to have money. It should be significantly more expensive than just getting a seat on a commercial plane (economy of scale), but more direct and less need for perfect IDs because they aren't going to hijack their own plane.

Own plane would also probably require renting a bay at the private plane section of the airport for maintenance and fueling, which would be arrangements that have to be made in advance, and filing the flight plan well in advance. More paper trail, if anyone knows them.
I'd print a few pages of abstruse forms and give them to the players.
They then roll whatever applicable skill they have and each hit give them the correct answer for one field. The rest they have to fill by themselves.
Probably a customs check on their cargo for every boarder they cross. Make them pay the customary bribes to customs officials. Have any fruit or produce confiscated. Have them meet the one honest customs official in the entire 6th world. Ect.
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