DESERT WARS 2071
This book would be a set of fiction surrounding the three Desert Wars that occur in 2071, consisting of news reports, propaganda, recruiting posters, shadow comments, and rundowns of the major players; followed by scenarios, adventures, and adventure hooks. The book would be broken down into five main sections: an introduction to the Desert Wars, one section for each of the three 2071 Desert Wars, and a wrap-up section on running the Desert Wars (both as a player and a gamemaster).
The plot thread that links the three events together is a series of set battles between two AA corporations (my tentative suggestions are Manadyne and Yakashima) to resolve ongoing legal conflicts regarding mutual industrial espionage and copyright infringement brought before the Corporate Court. Since neither of the AAs possess substantial military assets, they resolve to hiring mercenaries...which is where runners come in, with potential positions as mercs, company men, medics, combat magicians, Matrix assault units, spies, etc.
The three Desert War events take place in the Mojave Desert, staged out of Los Angeles; the Arabian Desert, staged out of Dubai; and the Taklimakan Desert, staged out of Macao/Hong Kong. This will allow new gamemasters and groups to introduce their campaigns in any of these locations, drawing off of and highlighting the settings in Runner Havens and Corporate Enclaves. The wrap up would contain information for helping players create characters for Desert Wars (or Desert Wars veterans, etc.) can draw off material presented in Street Magic, Arsenal, and Augmentation, and for helping the gamemaster plan and run battles. At the back of the book would be three maps for set-piece squad-level battles, with permission to photocopy to use as player handouts.
FERAL CITIES PROPOSAL
By Bobby Derie
This proposal covers two metroplexes for Feral Cities, one intended as a major city (approx. 40,000 words), Tehran, and one intended for a minor city (approx. 5,000 words), Tola (formerly Fort Dauphin). I’m more than willing to work with one or more partners on these or any other cities for the book.
TEHRAN – CITY OF NATIONS
In 2020, the Ayatollah declared a Jihad against the Awakened, and the Great Dragon Aden laid the city waste. Since that time, the city has been all but abandoned, suffering looting, neglect, and the plague of shedim. Criminals and fanatics sought refuge in the ruins, but no true community has come together in the city until now.
Fifty years after the rage of Aden, Tehran is beginning to blossom once more. Unhindered by the ruling Islamic government, many have sought refuge in the city, and in 2070 the blasted city has entered an economic boomtown phase that, when combined with its lack of central authority, has begun to attract more immigrants and businesses to the city. The City of Nations is poised to transform itself and become a guiding power in the Middle East...or fail and fall into ruin once again.
The introductory fiction for this chapter would have Elijah invading a shedim glass-house.
This introductory section would be an extended post by Nephilim (a guest shadowtalker) on the state of Tehran today, giving a very brief overview of the extant of the destruction from Aden’s rampage and the neglect of years, relations with the current government in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and an overview on getting to the city and what one can expect of the infrastructure (i.e. bringing your own water and gas, and whether or not you should expect field toilets, WiFi and power point access, that sort of thing).
BLOOD AND BULLETS (2K)
Nuyen doesn’t flow through Tehran, it stalls. The general lack of Matrix infrastructure in the city means that only a few, high-tech installations have the capability to handle nuyen transactions, which leaves the rest of the city to get by on physical currency and barter. The mujahideen enclave and the Abn’Allah community have both issued hologram-weave plastic dinar bills with embedded tags, by common agreement the production of these bills is limited and are traded at a 1:1 ratio. The poorest residents, as well as many criminals and Yazidi, resort to barter economics; the three most common barter goods, in order of increasing denomination are bullets, water, and slaves. Bullets are the most common, with one dinar approximately equal to two rounds of ammunition for an SMG or heavy pistol. Water is typically traded by the half-liter, with the value based on purity and availability–if you’re trading with one of the groups that has running water or access to a well, water doesn’t buy much.
Slavery is an unfortunate fact of life in Tehran, though the practice is widely frowned upon and only engaged in by the maffiya, the shedim, some of the Abn’Allah, the worst elements of the mujahideen, a couple of the Yazidi, the Apep Consortium (though they deny it)...the worst offenders are, of course, the maffiya and the shedim, who both engage in kidnapping to support the practice, with the maffiya shipping the slaves out of Tehran to other parts of the Middle East.
The Pasdaran Bazaar is a massive open marketplace running down Pasdaran Avenue (left fairly intact by Aden) and operated by the Tehran Maffiya, and the central economic heart of the city. Slave trading, prostitution, loan sharking, and other unsavory or illegal (under Sharia) practices takes place off of the main marketplace in commandeered buildings. The Abd’Allah and local banks cooperate to maintain the old Grand Bazaar, which is open to mercenaries and independent merchants as well for a small fee. A poor incarnation of what it once was, but the Grand Bazaar seems to grow a little every week.
Local Tehrani industries are generally given over to the production of food, particularly small livestock such as goats or miniature cows and agricultural produce such as millet and emmer wheat, and providing essential (sewage, medical, drinking water, power) and secondary (Matrix access, weaponry, mechanical and electrical repair, petrol and biofuel production) services, with recent limited industrialization (plastics, ceramics, and textiles) using desktop forge technology. One unique Tehrani export is Shedim glass art, though the trade in these sculptures is illegal in many jurisdictions outside of Tehran.
FORWARD MOMENTUM (6-8K)
The driving forces nudging Tehran from being the baked-out, glassy remnants of a dragon’s wrath and a living, vibrant city are greed, fervor, cred, and hope–not particularly in that order. The Jihad brings in a steady stream of mujahideen and nuyen, which helps support the flourishing maffiya market and the supporting industries (and their families); ironically, the city is better off the longer the conflict with the shedim goes on–a conflict that can’t last forever. On top of that, the presence of the Jihad means that the Irani government has taken an interest in Tehran again–will the Abd’Allah allow themselves to fall under the reign of the Ayatollah again? What does Aden think of this?
Basically, this section discusses the fact that Tehran’s situation, while improving, is not stable, and from the point of view of the locals and outsiders. The future of this feral city–and it is a feral city, with multiple conflicting “authorities” who only care about their own specific parts of it–is still very much up in the air.
THE NATIONS (10-12K)
The most important part of Tehran is how it functions, which is basically down to three parts–the factions that the population is divided into, how they interact in daily life, and what each of them brings to the city. Some factions have claimed specific areas, while others have simply settled in wherever they can. This section is provided by Goat Foot with additional comments and material from Elijah and Nephilim.
The most notorious of the residents of Tehran, the city has been a magnet for shedim since their first noted appearance in 2061, if not earlier (as in Jerusalem). Unlike in other places, these shedim are strongly controlled by the master shedim, and appear to have their own language and some ultimate goal they are pursuing, which involves their occupation of part of the city, which they are rebuilding and remodeling in a unique architectural style. Shedim-occupied parts of Tehran are constructed of glass (originally those sheets made from the dragon Aden’s breath on the desert sands, but later made with applied fire magic and the local sands) and ceramic bricks into odd ziggurats, squat towers with rooftop gardens, and domes covered with disturbing arabesques. Ibn Eisa is the representative of the shedim in the city, and sometimes receives visitors and deals with outsiders for certain supplies, information, or artifacts. Despite their willingness to deal with the locals, and even strangers, the shedim are also known to launch occasional raids for living bodies, or to possess the recently dead. (I’m trying to avoid too many parallels to Parlainth with this aspect by emphasizing the alien culture of the shedim).
To nearly all of the religions in the Middle East, the shedim are an abomination. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Ayatollah Juvayni in Iraq, and the Arabian Caliphate came together in conference in 2066 to jointly declare a jihad against the shedim defiling Tehran and its many mosques, especially after the shade of Ibn Eisa led a horrific raid on a museum in Qom. Mujahideen from all over the Islamic world have descended on the city to combat the shedim and reclaim the holy places.
However, an unorganized force of ragtag recruits would have no hope of combating the shedim, and the religious leaders knew this. To this end, the jihad was organized under an Islamic military/corporate model, with the three principal “investors”–the Caliph, the Ayatollah Abdallah of Iran, and the Ayatollah Juvayni of Iraq funnel their financial and material support to General Musa ibn Abu al-Rashid, the former commander of the Iraqi Pasadaran who became an Arabian ulema (Islamic scholar-magistrate). General Musa has set up a fortified base-camp in the former Golestan Palace, where he receives and trains new mujahideen as they enter the city and coordinates his assaults against the shedim.
The mujahideen are one of the driving forces behind the economic revival of Tehran, as the presence of so many troops demands support, which is provided by local businesses, camp-followers, the maffiya, smugglers, family members, and the like. General Musa regularly employs foreign mercenaries, either for precision strikes or to help train his troops.
Aden continues to have an interest in the fate of Tehran, and his eyes, ears, and fingers are a sect of Yazidi that occupy a fortified shrine in the city. The Yazidi’s influence is felt far more than their numbers or territory would tell: they have extensive contacts with Kurdish smugglers and mercenaries that make them one of the best-supplied and self-sufficient groups in the city, and they have been staunch opponents of both the shedim since their arrival, giving unexpected but crucial support to the mujhideen during several battles. Still, in a predominantly Muslim city the Yazidi face a great deal of racial discrimination; they are sometimes referred to as the Left Hand of Aden. The Yazidi deal warily with the archaeocorps, sometimes sharing information with them and even allowing them to view their most sacred relic, the Shroud of Shadows. Within the last year, Kurds from across Iran have begun a great migration to set up a fortified Kurdish Quarter around the Yazidi shrine, often arriving one family at a time.
The Apep Constortium, the Dunkelzahn Institute of Magical Research, and the Atlantean Foundation are the most extensive of the corporate presences in Tehran, drawn by the unusual shedim activity and the wealth of archaeological artifacts and opportunities present. Here, the groups can freely plunder museums or conduct digs wherever and whenever they please, though this sometimes brings them in conflict with the locals. The well-funded archaeocorp expeditions feature some of the latest technology in Tehran, including satlinks and WiFi access. Of the three, the Apep Consortium has the closest ties with the Irani government, and is the only archaeocorp currently building permanent structures. The AF and DIMR, by contrast, have temporary compounds; the bulk of the DIMR personnel actually live in solar-powered zeppelins, while the AF has a central compound of prefab modules set up in the historic district of Rey, surrounded by electrified fences and guard towers.
The archaeocorps depend on regular convoys of supplies, either by zeppelin (for the DIMR), or along a road built by the Apep Consortium (the AF pays a toll to use the road for their own convoys); these shipments are always heavily guarded, and often attacked. Individual employees of the archaeocorps also participate in the local economy.
Even in the Sixth World, racism and religion mix in strange ways. The Abd’Allah (Servants of God) are a community of metahumans who face persecution in their own cities and towns, who have come to Tehran for a fresh start–and a chance to live an Islamic life. Predominantly hobgoblin, the Abd’Allah community (about forty thousand individuals) includes an Islamic bank that supports local businesses, limited WiFi areas, six mosques (one of which has an attached school), a hospital, and a local Imam. The community does not have a police force or formal laws; Sharia is enforced by the local population–which means depending on where you go, you might be stoned to death by engaging a prostitute, or you might not.
The Abd’Allah is part of the support community for the mujahideen, but faces some prejudice from the ultrafanatical members, and the Imam and the General have clashed over crimes and reprisals between the two groups. Some members of the Abd’Allah also deal with the archaeocorps, the shedim, the maffiya–anything to make a living. The Imam, Isfahani Mostowfi, is a hobgoblin and former civil engineer that has led his people to reclaim, repair, or rebuild Tehran’s infrastructure, particularly water, sewage, and power systems to the neighborhoods occupied by the Abd’Allah; others in the city regularly try to leech off these services.
Smaller groups attached but separate to the Adb’Allah include representatives of the New Islamic Renaissance, particularly feminists, homosexuals, the heavily augmented, scholars and others that are more open than the mujahideen but more liberal than the devout metahumans of the Abd’Allah. There is also a small community of Jewish metahumans who maintain a single synagogue and a moneychanger (nuyen to dinars, dinars to nuyen) that are tolerated principally for the additional boost they bring to the economy.
The Tehran Maffiya
Ultimately an offshoot of the Kabul Maffiya, the Tehran maffiya are smugglers and opportunists that are responsible for one of the biggest grey markets in the Middle East. The maffiya will deal with anyone from the shedim to the mujahideen to Aden himself if their price is met, and they bring in a constant supply of weaponry, ammunition, medical supplies, food, petrol, clean water, portable generators, desert survival gear, illegal alcohol and pornography, nicsticks, and anything else they think will sell. They export slaves and shedim glass artifacts.
The leader of the Tehran Maffiya is Mahoud Zora, a bloodthirsty man who is said to have ripped a shedim in half with his cyberlimbs and lived to tell the tale. Zora is also known to be an addict to the hookah, and his occasional drug-crazed bouts have only deepened his reputation. Unusually, the Tehran Maffiya is known to give shelter to rape victims who would otherwise be victimized by their neighbors; the women often end up as prostitutes or as wives to the local criminals.
The Living Grid
Even the Bedouin tribes have technomancer members, though the lack of WiFi access can drive these metahumans almost mad. To protect themselves against this madness, Bedouin technomancers from many disparate tribes have grouped together, gaining strength–and sanity–from their proximity to one another, forming a living grid. During the events of Emergence, this metatribe received an unknown, almost instinctual directive, and turned to Tehran. Here, the tribes act as the foremost purveyors of information in Tehran, spying everything and sharing it with their fellows. The Sheikh, a woman known as Zia, deals with the leaders of the various communities, and wishes to patch together Tehran’s fractured grid.
While these groups are the most powerful and influential in Tehran, they represent only about half of the total population. The rest are men and women who have been attracted to Tehran for their own reasons, be it familial obligations, the chance of starting a business withou worrying about government oversight and pollution controls, or dreams of building a new society. Individually, these people have little influence over the city as a whole, but each must deal with one or more of the other groups on a daily basis. A Tehrani independent might start the day answering the call to prayer from the mujahideen citadel, then buy breakfast from the Abd’Allah in the Grand Bazaar before going to work at one of the small factories on the outskirts of the city, and enjoy a hookah in a maffiya bar or hire a Bedouin e-scribe to send an e-mail message to his mother in Esfahan on his way home.
LAY OF THE LAND (8K)
Discussion of the geography of modern Tehran; this is essentially a districts chapter. The old municipal divisions are obsolete; the general population breaks the city down into rough districts. Most of this section will be posted by Nephilim.
Sometimes called “Snake Town,” the Apep Consortium’s large, permanent facility, and the various businesses it has attracted around it, includes most of Sharak-e Gharb in northern Tehran. Locals are hired to help in the removal of ruined buildings and the construction of reinforced ferroconcrete buildings, being paid in medical supplies, packaged food, clothing, and other essentials of life. A modern road leads from Apophis to the highway between Qom and Rasht.
This area includes the Grand Bazaar and the Baharestan, historical landmarks now occupied by the Abd’Allah. The mujahidden maintain a series of fortified checkpoints in the district to ward off the shedim, and to act as staging areas in their ongoing assault. It is one of the densest districts on terms of population, with many high-rises that house families, mosques, and entire floors given over to agriculture and raising food animals, and also boasts the largest WiFi network, power, sewage, and running water. The district is also frequently the target of disease, particularly anthrax and antibiotic-resistant typhoid fever due to problems in the sewage treatment system and the presence of lifestock. The majority of the Jewish population live around the Yusef Abed Synogogue in this district.
“The Damned Place,” centered on the old Khavaran cemetery, is the stronghold of the shedim in Tehran. Here the walking corpses have raised their odd glass-faced towers and squat ceramic gardens, as well as walls of cement faced with sharp glass to help ward of the mujahideen. Rumors and satellite studies indicate that the shedim have been constructing, or excavating, beneath the district as well.
The maffiya and various mercenaries occupy the better part of this northern region, especially Pasdaran Avenue, which is the site of the Pasdaran Bazaar. The ruined Borj-e Sefid serves as the headquarters of a small coalition of the 10,000 Daggers mercenary group; many local construction gangs have raided the fallen half of the tower for building materials for years. Pasdaran is renowned for its vice, with many maffiya members and affiliates operating bars, hookah bars, strip clubs, small casinos, and bordellos out of the mansions and townhomes in the former suburbian district.
Parts of this ancient historic district are more than five thousand years old, and the DIMR has been assiduously digging up the place ever since its zeppelins arrived. The lack of local air power (aside from a few spirits or wyverns) grants the DIMR a decided advantage when threatened by the locals, and otherwise makes use of electrified fences and guard towers to keep out shedim and troublemakers.
Located on the slopes of the Alborz Mountains, this area includes several palace complexes currently occupied by the Yazidi and Kurds.
A “planned city” within the greater metroplex, including the remains of a fortified army garrison in old Lavizan, Tehranpars has become the central base and training facility of the mujahideen. It is the only portion of the city that is regularly policed, and the only area where a portion of the metro network is currently operating.
To the north of Tehranpars, the Lavizan Forest Park has overgrown and taken over some of the surrounding buildings, and rumored to contain paranormal creatures, particularly wyverns.
Also called “West Tehran,” this area is the primary industrial district of Tehran, with a number of small factories that boast desktop forges producing plastic, textile, and ceramic parts which are then assembled (by hand, or with the appropriate machinery) into finished products. Each of the dozen or so factories follows a similar business model, with the desktop forge being shipped in under heavy guard with “seed” plans and materials that allow the desktop forge to produce all of the necessary machinery for a given industry, and then produce the parts for that industry. It is strongly suspected by members of the Islamic Renaissance Movement that these factories are owned by Evo, and that when they reach a certain stage of development the factories will begin to cooperate to produce more complex products that will see the corp poised to reassemble Tehran’s infrastructure.
The majority of residents in this district are independent.
SITES OF INTEREST (10K)
Essentially a Places to See section given by Traveler Jones, this would give a couple dozen important sites, including the Pasdaran Bazaar and Grand Bazaar; the Scorpion Dreaming, a hookah bar with reputed ties to the Black Scorpions terrorist group; the Shrine of Aden, maintained by the Yazidi; the Gates of Eden, supposed to be the entrance to a paradisiacal Resonance Realm guarded by the Living Grid; the Sign of the Goat, a hangout for IRM scholars; the Tehran Exchange, an online stock and currency exchange for trusted Tehrani merchants; Outer Kurdistan, the Kurdish neighborhoods surrounding the Yazidi shrine; the Azadi Tower and the attached stadium (on a good day, the whole town shows up for soccer matches); the Hand of Fatima, a local talismonger shop that lives in constant danger of being burned down by its neighbors; Iblis’ Finger, a glass-and-bone tower in the shedim-haunted portion of the city where visitors may meet with Ibn Eisa; a Biofuel Plant run by local independent industrialists; the Magi’s, a nickname for the currency exchange run by the local Persian Jews (with discrete ties to Israel); the Street of E-scribes, technomancers from the local Bedouin metatribe selling their Matrix services; the House of Mahoud Zora, leader of the local maffiya, who can put the shadowrunners in touch with other maffiya–or be contacted by them to take care of their good friends; the Mehrebad International Airport, all but destroyed but one runway cleared for local traffic (read: smugglers) by the local maffiya, etc.
The city of Tola (formerly Fort Dauphin) on the island of Madagascar is the pirate capital of the world–or at least the Indian Ocean. Pirates from Hong Kong to the Gold and Ivory Coast routinely make port at the Pirate ‘plex, a city that owes its continued existence to plunder from across the world. More than a jumped-up Tortuga with nothing to offer but ale and whores, however, Tola has evolved a more functional anarchist equilibrium with the years. Basically, this proposal will expand on the city of Tola as presented in Cyberpirates!, giving some additional information on the geography, ethnography, powers that be, and economy of the Pirate ‘plex–not too deep, because this would be a short section, but a bit more solid info than the rampant rumor-mongering in Cyberpirates!. The principal voice would be Sounder.
The major gangs in the region are centered around the seven or eight largest brothels; the bastard children of the prostitutes are raised and disciplined into gangs that protect their mothers, “aunties,” and “uncles” as they work or walk the streets, tossing out any patrons that become too rough or who try to take without paying. On top of this, different gangs and groups compete to provide certain basic services throughout the city, from fresh water to fire protection to Matrix access, often sabotaging one another’s efforts over particularly lucrative contracts. Most of the locals don’t actually make a living from pirating, but from supporting the pirates. They raise crops and fell trees at the outskirts of the city, brew dangerous alcoholic concoctions and nasty homemade drugs from recipes beamed off a satlink, or fish in the surrounding waters. Some of the more ambitious ones make their own catamarans out of wood or scavenged densiplast and cheap engines to raid pirate ships that have drunk themselves senseless.
The Hundred Pearls Triad is the largest of the pirate groups that regularly dock at the city, often preying on corporate shipping (preferring to charge “tolls” or enforce protection rackets than actually board and sink ships), and regularly smuggle Kong Chips from the Ten Thousand Lions and red orchid from the Smoke Circle Society in Hong Kong. Their current rivals are the Witch Smeller N’geeri and her villainous crew; N’geeri was forced to flee from Azania after an altercation with Mujaji’s shamans and preys on Azanian shipping by preference. Aquatic mercenary companies sometimes make port here as well, usually when they’re looking for cheap muscle to help out on shipments to Dubai or Sri Lanka.
The Karlsruhe Special Administrative Zone occupies a pivotal location in AGS politics and geography. Still officially under martial law, the city and surrounding district of Karlsruhe houses the Constitutional Court and the largest military garrison in the AGS – if not all of Europe.
Rebuilt substantially following the 2034 earthquakes and the Crash 2.0, which devastated its matrix infrastructure, the Karlsruhe metroplex combines 18th-century architectural ideals with 21st-century materials and construction, resulting in a fantastic gothic metropolis – at least, on the surface. Ghettos and unsightly modern structures often sit side-by-side with sculpted-plascrete monuments to an earlier age. Augmented Reality superimposes decoration onto the drab modern buildings and touches up the cracks and dilapidation of some of the older buildings.
The focus of this reconstruction is more than tourism, urban renewal, or civic beautification – Karlsruhe was constructed to be a powerful mana nexus, a mechanism for drawing in and perhaps redirecting mana from the most powerful domains in Europe. Restoration efforts and rituals carried out by various groups have managed to partially activate this device – each day, at exactly midnight, one of the “spokes” of the wheel activates, and the corresponding street becomes a manaline with a particular aspect for certain magical activities for 24 hours, when it deactivates and the next spoke (going widdershins) activates. This 32-day cycle is well-known in Karlsruhe magical society.
Not all of the experimentation and urban planning have resulted for the best, however. Karlsruhe is plagued by wild magic, periodic mana spikes and ebbs, and even reports of alchera and astral rifts. A number of paracritters have adapted to this urban environment, including a large population of gargoyles. Recently, a great deal of interest has been given to the sewers (the lowest levels of which are reputed to date to the 18th century, or earlier). These investigations have been stalled, however, because the sewers are the abode of hundreds of thousands of devil rats and demon rats. Regular patrols in the sewers suffer heavy casualties from these assaults, which urban legend purports are guided by a Rat King. The conditions have gotten so bad that the metroplex has instituted a Cull, offering 25 nuyen per pelt for devil rats and 200 nuyen per pelt for demon rats – no one knows how many desperate men and women have died attempting to collect the bounty.
The Hub – The castle at the heart of the 32 streets and the center of the pyramid, a nexus of magical and political power.
The University of Karlsruhe – Home of the local chapter of the Doctor Faustus Society and the New Karlsruhe Research Center, and home to several joint research programs with the Atlantean Foundation, the Dunkelzahn Institute of Magical Research, Charles University of Prague, and Saeder-Krupp.
The German Nuclear Research Center – Focuses mainly on the study of samples from the nearby SOX, but also involved in other research. Rumored to hold captured radiation spirits and a captured Winternight modified neutron bomb.
Turmberg – A former ruined castle, recently restored to act as an embassy for the government of the Troll Kingdom of the Black Forest.
Karlsruhe houses a diverse and cosmopolitan population. A sizeable Jewish minority with a long history still resides in Karlsruhe, as does a large contingent of French expatriates and trolls from the Black Forest in the south.
Ethnically, the metroplex is extremely well integrated. Waves of emigres from former German colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas have settled in the city during the troubles of the last century, forming small ethnic enclaves with a common German heritage.
Race relations are more divided, and tensions often flair over discrimination or acceptance of the troll and ogre population in the Black Forest, the result of the Great-Bandische Crusade, an underground racist organization started by the late Mayor Grabler.
Descrimination against magicians is low-level but widespread among Karlsruhe’s working class. The city suffered a horrible shedim infestation in 2061, which was only put down after heavy losses from both the military and the metroplex’s civilians. Every year since, on Walpurgis Night, shedim again attack the city. Magicians attribute this to a possible astral rift or gateway that opens in parts of the city sewers, but popular sentiment suggests it comes from magicians tinkering with the Hub.
Besides the indigenous population, Karlsruhe deals with a massive transitory population – the rotation of troops from other parts of the AGS, French workers that enter and leave the metroplex every day across the Rhine, and traffic from other parts of the AGS and Europe through the Autobahn, the Rhine, and the international airport.
The military presence in the city limits many traditional criminal activities to the less-well patrolled sections of the metroplex, especially the ghettos. On the other hand, political intrigue operates on a massive scale, sometimes spilling into public view. Wizgangs and Street Covens claim and defend their territory from all takers, and the abundance of mercenaries occasionally seek illegal employment.
The bulk of the local underworld is involved in smuggling. The Organizatzi, as the local Vory are called, control the docks along the Rhine and thus smuggling from France and the United Netherlands, particularly BTLs and forged SINs. Their main opposition is a local Jewish ethnic mafia, the Shevuot, who have ties with the Nezeqin in Prague and possesses considerable influence in white collar crime and talislegging. Currently, the Shevuot are engaged in a bloody struggle to evict the Organizatzi and secure the Karlsruhe Underworld for themselves.
A large percentage of Karlsruhe’s businesses cater to the needs of the garrison, but the bulk of the working population is employed in the burgeoning Manatech industry. Major players in this field include Universal Solvents LLC, a subsidiary of AG Chemie dedicated to the development of new magical compounds and awakened pharmaceuticals; Zeiss Mageworks, manufacturers of MageSight fiberoptic systems; and NuWorld Securities, an agricorp that specializes in awakened ivy, glomoss, guardian vines, and haven lilies.
Ruthenium Poncho and Enchanted Bayonet
Politics, magic, and the military are perceptibly linked in Karlsruhe, both in secret and in public. It’s an open secret that the Freemasons have insinuated themselves in local politics – which in this case is synonymous with the command structure of the local garrison – but what is not commonly known is that two different Masonic organizations are competing for control of the city: the Bavarian Illuminati and the Black Lodge. Outright magical manipulation of powerful figures is rare because of the high possibility of being caught, but adept spies, assassins, the threat of ritual magic, and divination-fueled blackmail are common tools. The local chapter of the Doctor Faustus Society has discreet ties to the Bavarian Illuminati, while the Black Lodge has contacts within the local Catholic Church.
Among the units of the AGS military stationed at Karlsruhe are the Strategic Thaumaturgy Group, small SWAT-style squads that integrate magicians, adepts, and manatech to locate and dispatch magical threats. MET 2000 also have a presence in the metroplex in order to recruit experienced soldiers from the garrison as mercenaries.
- Bodyguard an Apep Consortium Egyptologist studying a vault beneath the pyramid-grave of the city founder – which requires the runners travel through three kilometers of devil-rat infested sewers.
- The Organizatzi hires the runners to start a fire in an ethnic Vietnamese neighborhood, and to plant false evidence point to it being set by residents in the neighboring Jewish quarter.
- A fanatical follower of the GBC hires the runners to break into the Turmberg and plant incriminating files pointing to dzoo-noo-qua (HMHVV-infected trolls) being secretly brought into the metroplex from the Black Forest.
- Rats and bats are descended from the same distant ancestor. Now imagine if that common ancestor was an Awakened critter like a devil rat or demon rat. In other words, picture a large, hairless bat that is incredibly aggressive, capable of regenerating almost instantly from injuries, and able to direct the actions of its un-Awakened kin. That’s a fliederteufel, or “flying devil.”
- The flying devil is primarily an insectivore, and some Ebony Tower magus figured it would be a great idea to encourage these critters as a means to sniff out flesh-form insect spirits. It worked…except that after scouring the ‘plex of all the insect spirits, the damn flying rats didn’t leave. They’ve killed whole tribes of squatters in those abandoned warehouses by the Danube. And then there was the time that nosferatu got control of a swarm of the damn things.
- The high density of Awakened in Prague demands a constant stream of magical goods – both legal and illegal. It’s an open secret that the Jewish mob is a major supplier in the Prague shadows, smuggled in from their contacts throughout Europe and beyond - but what most people don’t know is the bulk of the refined reagents, fetishes, and ritual materials come from their cousins in Karlsruhe.
- The syndicates are pretty closed to outsiders – you have to be Jewish of course, and not just-converted Jewish, but Jewish for a generation or two – and they only accept members who have been vouched for by an existing member. Naturally, this means that they can get pretty short-handed. Runners can get work as muscle, smugglers, or just specialists.
- A lot of Karlsruhe’s underworld cant incorporates a number of Yiddish words.
- Prague is on the fractal edge of magical research, and produces volumes of formulae, theses, treatises, articles, journals, algorithms, programs, and files that are immediately dropped into corporate and national top-secret bins.
- What it doesn’t have is a comparable cottage industry in magical goods or manatech. There is a dedicated contingent of enchanters who specialize in foci-to-order, but corporate and university enchanting departments have most of their resources tied up in unique enchantment research.
- Many Prague institutions depend on or supplement their magical defenses with manatech devices including FAB systems, biofiber, and Awakened plants, which are produced in Karlsruhe. Manatech research is the primary genuine research that Karlsruhe engages in.
- The proximity of Karlsruhe to the SOX attracts a steady stream of Prague scholars and contributed to the development of the manapatch.
- To maintain the size of their standing garrison in Karlsruhe, the German government began enlisting German-speakers from former German colonies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in exchange for citizenship. As a result, Karlsruhe has a number of multi-ethnic neighborhoods.
Robert Derie: Oh, thinking back to drugtech and all that. Thought of unique air radicals as a drug, or possibly as a replacement for oxyrush. Too much of it, though, and you can't breathe normal air...interesting side effect, to say the least.
fastdos14: heh, facemasks as an indication of addiction
Robert Derie: Well, then I got weird. Picture an astral rift to the Metaplane of Air. Now picture guys in diving apparatus going through to collect unique air radicals.
fastdos14: whoa..odd. wouldn't have tohught of that
Robert Derie: [shrug]
Robert Derie: Anywho: Way of the Salaryman. I have lots of material. It's hard to get really complex and detailed subject matter across without sounding all textbooky.
Robert Derie: Trying to think of a good way to do it. Maybe an artsy film documentary clip, or something.
Robert Derie: Describe the scenes, see?
fastdos14: been having the same prob with other sections. How about doing handover notes
fastdos14: you write a document from one vp giving advice to an incoming vp
fastdos14: or any random position
fastdos14: I was thinking about it for bitter satori
Robert Derie: Hrm. Might work for Bitter Satori, but I think I need a broader -or at least more than one - perspective for Way.
fastdos14: true that. Maybe do an insder documentary type thing? diff corp perspectives and layout can divide it and make it cool looking
Robert Derie: How do you feel about the Neo-Tokyo Tower becoming a commercial concert venue? Huge plascrete bowl at the bottom of the tower with a stage at the center, send the signal to broadcast straight to the tower.
Robert Derie: Maybe an post-urban anthropology study.
fastdos14: ooh i like
Robert Derie: Aagh.
Robert Derie: I just found out what denki anma is.
fastdos14: what is it?
Robert Derie: Fake Japanese wrestling move. Girl standing on a guy's fork sort of thing.
Robert Derie: I have a possible solution for the 'gap' left by the asbence of the war shrine.
Robert Derie: Gotokuji shrine in Western Tokyo - the Shrine of the Cat. Supposedly the origin of the maneki neko.
Robert Derie: Up the marketing a bit, sell the maneki neko...did you know it's traditional for successful businessmen to donate a torii (traditional gateway) to a shrine? Some of them have quite a few.
Robert Derie: Aye
Robert Derie: Ah, weel. How do you feel about the Neo-Tokyo Tower becoming a commercial concert venue? Huge plascrete bowl at the bottom of the tower with a stage at the center, send the signal to broadcast straight to the tower.
Robert Derie: Oops, that was meant for Malik.
Robert Derie: But Hell, I want your opinion too!
mike Otaku: About the Tokyo Tower, I'd have to check its actual location (and what is around it) before giving you an opinion
Robert Derie: Well, this is the third one, so it can go damn near anywhere. We're assuming the current model and the one they're putting up are torn down (or, at the least, non-important).
mike Otaku: Right, I forgot the earthquakes
mike Otaku: In this case I think it can be a pretty cool concert stage. With the spotlights attachec to the 1st floor above the ground floor. You could have plenty of cables and things hanging over the stage. 360° view on the stage. Artist entering on the stage floor by an elevator in the middle going up to the 1st floor (or is it 2nd floor for you americans?)
Robert Derie: Depends on where you're at, but generally we say 'ground floor' and then '2nd floor'
Robert Derie: I was thinking that the tower construction would require corporate sponsorship anyway, and you need a venue for the bands - the bigger ones are practically corporate entities in their own right, the idoru can be projected holograms to perform...
mike Otaku: so, that's 2nd floor I meant. The first of the elevated storry in the tower
Robert Derie: Right.
mike Otaku: Bottom of the bowl is below ground floor. Rows of seats from around the stage up to Ground floor (and probably a bit above too, so that you walk in in the middle rows), and lights and tech support on the 2nd floor
Robert Derie: And below the stage, for your elevator.
Robert Derie: THink I might have a solution for the 'gap' in the chapter from the war shrine.
mike Otaku: Nope, the elevator would be some kind of glass pillar in the center of the stage, linking the bottom of the bowl (the stage) to the tech support/artist lodges above in the 2nd floor. That'd make for some spectacular entrances
Robert Derie: Ah, the descent-from-heaven route. Gotcha.
mike Otaku: yup
Robert Derie: Anywho: Gotokuji. Shrine of the Cat, supposedly where the Maneki Neko was created, is in Tokyo.
Robert Derie: Ramp up the corporate marketing bit a couple degrees and I think we've got a winner.
mike Otaku: Of course this needs to be well protected from the elements. Torrential rains are common in Japan, around the end of summer. And a bowl shaped concert stage wouldn't like to become a fish bowl
Robert Derie: Drains in the floor, maybe a tarp for when things get really bad.
Robert Derie: Anywho, it'll keep the bums out.
regelphex: read the text !
regelphex: Corp Enclaves
ancient0history: Reed or red?
regelphex: from reading
ancient0history: So you read the Places draft?
regelphex: exactly wink.gif
ancient0history: Okay. Wasn't sure exactly. Damn English.
regelphex: I have an excuse. I am not a native speaker wink.gif
ancient0history: We have two words that are spelt the same but pronounced differently.
regelphex: i know
ancient0history: Yeah. Sorry. Whatcha think?
regelphex: overall I think its excellent...
regelphex: there is A LOT of useful stuff that hasn't been covered so far elsewhere...
ancient0history: Thankee. Still needs tightening up, though.
ancient0history: Watada house is probably going to go into the Syndicates chapter.
ancient0history: We might have to cut Takonashi, though I hope it can stay in. It neatly continues three seperate metaplots.
ancient0history: Ipissimus is one of those "WTF didn't I think of this during Street Magic?" things.
ancient0history: And the voice of the author needs to be made more Japanese and specific to the character.
ancient0history: I'd like to expand on the surrounding countries a bit, but I need to steal some wordcount for that.
regelphex: by overall problem is shadowtalk
regelphex: you have way to much of it
ancient0history: Yeah, there is that too. First thing to take the weedwacker to.
regelphex: the Tsjuki Fish Market is just fluff...
regelphex: if something has to be cut for WC I would go for it
ancient0history: I'm hoping to make it sexier, since it was in the initial proposal.
regelphex: I especially like the Black Shogun and the log insert
ancient0history: Maybe the whale breeding pens or megadalons...
regelphex: the Ipissiumus is also extremly cool..
ancient0history: Yeah, I wasn't sure how the Black Shogun would do over. I do like it, though.
regelphex: and don't mind that you did not think about it for SM, ists better placed here
regelphex: the Baka Kia episode sounds too much Emergence..
regelphex: and I would add least for one person in the text add a short profile...
ancient0history: Yeah. Since CE is supposed to take place during Emergence I figured tempers might still be flaring.
ancient0history: Not happy with it, though.
regelphex: either Ghost Face Woman, the fixe Take Ono
ancient0history: If we have short profiles, they'll probably be in the Runners section.
ancient0history: But I will pass the idea along to Malik.
regelphex: regarding the Trading Partners section...
regelphex: WHY HAWAI'I?
regelphex: Why is everyone so obsessed with it...
regelphex: its too far away
ancient0history: It's fairly important, actually in the Pacific, actually.
ancient0history: It is also incredibly corporatized, nearly controlled by the Japanese, and Ryumyo has a vassal there.
ancient0history: Hell, they even have a local Yakuza gumi.
ancient0history: Granted, the whole section may end up on the cutting room floor.
ancient0history: Does that answer your question?
regelphex: hm..nevertheless I would think that it is more useful to cover Korea, Russia, China, and SouthEast Asia with laying a focus on the Philippines
ancient0history: Southeast Asia is a big place. I did give considerable thought to Singapore, Inc.
regelphex: BTW...will the chapter contain intros to japanese metavariants...
ancient0history: Anyway, we'll see how many words we can spare
regelphex: like you did for the menehune?
ancient0history: Japanese metavariants are covered in the Overview.
regelphex: or Fox Shapeshifters..
ancient0history: Like the menehune.
ancient0history: Kitsune? heh. Them and two-tailed blackberry cats, eh? If I have wordcount
regelphex: I liked that you took over the Gaki from SoA
ancient0history: I'm a walking trivia fountain. Had to at least make mention.
ancient0history: No stats, however. Those are saved for the Runner Companion.
regelphex: what I missed as little is a lit of that japanese pop culture...
ancient0history: yeah. Working on that.
regelphex: it is a little bit in the gambling (cool stuff BTW)
ancient0history: You don't think I went overboard?
regelphex: no I think it is good as is...
ancient0history: I really appreciate the feedback, Lars. Thanks.
regelphex: no prob
THE GOING RATE: How Much To Pay Your Runner Team
By Robert Derie
The Going Rate
Part of the setting in a campaign is the going rate, or how much a Mr. Johnson can expect to have to shell out to get a particular job done. Like any other part of the economy, the going rate is determined by supply and demand. If the streets are swarming with wannabes, a team of shadowrunners might have to fight just to get a low-paying job; if a particular runner team is the only one in the sprawl that can get the job done, they can expect higher rates.
No matter the job, the Mr. Johnson, or the reputation of the team, the price offered for a run should be commensurate with the difficulties the shadowrunners should expect to face. Shadowrunners undertake dangerous, illegal actions that can result in injury, prison, or death, and they expect proper compensation.
There is no magic formula that can tell a gamemaster exactly how much her group of players should get per run, but a good rule of thumb is to base it on the cost of the average lifestyle in her campaign. Keep in mind that shadowrunners usually only manage one shadowrun per month, so average runs should at least cover the monthly payment for that character, plus a little extra to cover the runners’ expenses incurred during the run. Difficult or very dangerous shadowruns should set the character up for a couple of months at their current lifestyle, or a month at the next higher lifestyle. Details on lifestyle costs can be found on page 261 in Shadowrun, Fourth Edition. Characters who wish to maintain a higher lifestyle than the average you set for your campaign can do so–all they have to do is work more often or pursue higher-paying jobs. Many campaigns creep toward higher lifestyles as characters become more powerful and the scope of runs increases.
It is up to the gamemaster to provide players with the proper incentive to accept a Mr. Johnson’s offer without disrupting the balance of the campaign. A gamemaster who consistently offers low fees for dangerous work frustrates her players, while “sugar daddy” gamemasters who give too much nuyen for too little effort often find their campaigns running out of control.
In the stereotypical shadowrun, the players sit rapt in attention as the gamemaster, in the persona of Mr. Johnson, delivers the pitch. After she’s finished, it’s time for the fun part: haggling. Most players have come to expect (and enjoy) a bit of dickering over the price. While ideally the negotiations should be roleplayed between the gamemaster (as Mr. Johnson) and the face or spokesman of the group–after all, social situations are where face characters excel–the relevant rules for negotiations can be found on p.121 of Shadowrun, Fourth Edition. Gamemasters should keep in mind the Social Modifiers Table on p.122 as well; most professional Mr. Johnsons are Neutral to any shadowrunners they are hiring, though racist or biased Mr. Johnsons may start out as Prejudiced or even Hostile. If the Mr. Johnson is planning to betray the runners, they may accede to the runners demands after token resistance.
Only the most inexperienced Mr. Johnsons offer the full amount they are willing to pay in their initial offer. A good rule of thumb is to have Mr. Johnson initially offer 80-85% of the total, and then bargain with the characters, raising the price by 5% for every net hit the shadowrunner scores, and lowering the price 5% for every net hit the Mr. Johnson. Players feel a sense of accomplishment if they can raise the price up 15-20%, never knowing that they are being paid no more than what Mr. Johnson expected to pay them. Mr. Johnsons do not have limitless resources, however, and no Mr. Johnson will raise the price over 120-125% of what they intended to pay the runners.
If the runners repeatedly attempt to raise the price after the Mr. Johnson has signaled the end of the negotiations, remind them that Mr. Johnson can walk out and find plenty of other shadowrunners to do his dirty work for the price he offers.
As a show of good faith, cover necessary expenses, and “sweeten the pot” during negotiations, a Mr. Johnson will typically advance each of the runners 10-15% of their pay up front. Player characters may negotiate to increase the percentage of their pay upfront with another Negotiation test, as outlined above, with each net hit increase or decreasing the size of the advance by 5%. Under no conditions will a Mr. Johnson advance the player characters more than 50% of their final take.
Alternate Forms of Payment
A Mr. Johnson will give a runner team as much information and assistance he deems necessary to get the assignment done. Reasonable expenses are acceptable, provided the shadowrunners had the foresight to include them in the negotiations, and the interests that the Mr. Johnson represents (if he does not represent his own) may be able to assist the characters with semi-specialized equipment or information. This is especially true if the runners are in a foreign sprawl or country, where they lack the contacts to obtain basic gear. If the shadowrunners make absurd requests or require Mr. Johnson to ferret out information they should be able to obtain on their own, their fee should be reduced accordingly.
When nuyen isn’t sufficient by itself, a Mr. Johnson may sweeten the pot by offering gear or services that shadowrunners could not easily obtain on their own. Megacorps and syndicates could swap out weapons, programs and equipment (at –20-50% of the listed price) in exchange for nuyen, while a magical group might offer instruction, access to their facilities, magical goods, or even a grimoire of spell formulae. If player characters include a request for certain items in the negotiation process, most Mr. Johnsons are ready and willing to agree–provided they have access to such equipment, of course.
In street level campaigns, a person or group without sufficient cred may try to hire the runner team by trading goods and services. Such runs make excellent roleplaying opportunities, and the gamemaster should be careful in making the payoff worth it to the runners in the end. A group of player characters who save a restaurant from a gang might be able to eat their for free for a month, taking 5% off their lifestyle costs, while a team that saves the gunsmith’s kidnapped daughter from being raped might earn a Major Favor (See Favors, p. 280, Shadowrun, Fourth Edition).
Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and being paid by Mr. Johnson is no exception. Every now and again, a Mr. Johnson may not pay the runners with certified credsticks or wire the nuyen directly into a bank account under one of the runners’ assumed names. A Mr. Johnson could show up with a suitcase filled with bundles of old nuyen notes–or even foreign currencies like CAS dollars or Quebec francs. Corporate Mr. Johnsons may pay runners in corporate scrip, a type of currency issued and redeemed by one of the Big Ten megacorporations, and which can be used (if you have the right fake ID) to shop at corporate stores (which usually have –20-50% discounts on select equipment, and only accept corporate scrip). In some sprawls, underworld markers and corporate or government bonds are the preferred payment, which the runners can redeem for nuyen from whoever issued them. Mr. Johnsons in corporate employ are particularly fond of paying runners in stock, as it discourages shadowrunners from doing anything that will reduce the company’s stock price (at least, until the runners manage to sell the stock). Runners without the time or patience to deal with alternate forms of payment can exchange them for nuyen through a fixer.
Non-tangible payment can take the form of information (where the runner’s friend is being held, the passcode to a datacreche with material to blackmail the local district attorney, the schedule of the next shipment of Ares weapons coming in on the docks, etc.), a valid SIN, a six-month DocWagon contract, or an introduction to a potential contact.
In most Shadowrun campaigns, the player characters will be employed and paid by a Mr. Johnson. Some campaigns may have someone else footing the bill for the characters: government and megacorporate agents will receive steady paychecks and be issued (or able to check out) equipment as needed; a group of syndicate enforcers may be given a piece of territory to run as a reward for proving themselves; and legitimate private investigators, mercenaries, and security consultants have standardized rates for their customers.
If the character receives a regular stipend of paycheck, it should be a monthly allotment suitable to maintain the characters at a given lifestyle, or a lifestyle will be provided (on a megacorporate or government installation, for example); the higher they get in the ranks, the higher the lifestyle, the more perks, and the better quality of toys, training, and equipment they have access to. Player characters that work for syndicates are usually initiated members (“Made” members of the Mafia, Yazuka kobun, etc.) and are “taken care of” by the syndicate; most or all of their lifestyle costs will be paid for through favors and services owed to the syndicate. Additionally, syndicate members typically receive a cut of the take in any robbery or illegal operation they take part in. Private investigator and mercenary campaigns operate much like shadowruns, but all negotiations are legal and the players will need to sign formal contracts to seal the deal.
Bonuses and Penalties
At the end of a shadowrun, when the players meet with Mr. Johnson again to settle up, it’s common for the players to be assessed bonuses and penalties based on their performance. If the players have done well and accomplished all the aspects of their mission within the parameters, Mr. Johnson may give them a small (5-10% of payment for the run) bonus. A tip, basically. It is also typical that a Mr. Johnson may purchase any useful paydata or items of interest to his employer at this time, which saves the runners from going to their fence. Runners who fail to complete one or more parts of the mission, or who act in an unprofessional matter and cause needless secondary damage will find their Mr. Johnson unwilling to pay the full amount (–5-10% per infraction, to a maximum of 50% unless the runners totally bollix things up).
It is a fact of life in the shadows that most runners end their careers dead or maimed. If negotiated ahead of time, a Mr. Johnson may pay a set amount toward hospital fees or to the fallen runner’s family. Mr. Johnsons who have not agreed to this obligation will pay the original amount to the team, to be split as they desire, or even pay each living runner their share and pocket the change.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is the absolute minimum payment professional runners should expect to receive for different services. The table below is included as a reference for gamemasters to use in their games. Gamemasters are recommended to use the table as a guide when adjusting payments to fit their campaigns.
If the shadowrunners ever need to hire anyone else to do something for them, these are the minimum prices they can expect to pay for their fellow shadowrunners’ services.
BASELINE SHADOWRUN PAYMENT TABLE
Bodyguard/Security Duty 200? per day
Courier Run 1,000?
Datasteal 20% value of data
Encryption/Decryption 200? x Encryption Rating
Hacking 1,000? x Firewall
Investigation 200? per day
Smuggling Run 5,000?
 15th century iron dagger from Benin, used for ritual sacrifice to summon and bind Vodu gods into service
 The Grand Grimoire, claimed to date from 1522 but probably written in the 19th century. The book is called "Le Veritable Dragon Rouge" ("The Red Dragon") in Haiti, where it is revered among many practitioners of Vodou and Santeria.
 The Great Book of Saint Cyprian, many consider it a sin to possess it or even to touch it. Some owners of book shops keep it chained inside a box.
 Mojo bag with a bone from a black cat, the left hind foot of a rabbit killed in a gravyard at midnight with a silver bullet, a lodestone and a John the Conqueror Root
 Yoruba drum
 Bleached metahuman skull
 Fetish made from a chickenfoot on a leather thong to be worn around the neck.
 Black silk suitcoat, pants, and tophat with silver-handled black cane
Oops, missed one, an early thought experiment on what would be Ghost Cartels:
AMRITA (Dreamsnuff, InnerCense, RainBlow)
A handful of rainbow-colored crystals, Amrita is typically crushed and powdered before being snorted or absorbed in any bodily orifice; it may also be chewed or smoked, mixed into an oily, color-slicked pharmaceutical solution and injected, and is even available as clear gel tablets, rainbow-derms, and poppers for the rich-kids. Known on the streets as Dreamsnuff, InnerCense or RainBlow, Amrita is a potent hallucinogenic compound, increasing the sharpness and sensitivity of every being's innate psychic senses, even giving brief, maddening glances at the astral (usually no more than a few seconds at a time, with the astral visions occurring with greater frequency and duration as the user approaches the climax of their high).
The downside, undiscernable except over long periods of time, is that the user begins to develop a distinct haze of astral pollution around them. This pollution, mechanically similar to the karma hazing developed by cyberzombies, exacerbates the negative effects of the user's brief views of the astral, especially if several heavy addicts are gathered together. This astral cloud is always a reflection of the subject's negative emotions, and can trigger flashbacks or give others who assense the character information on their greatest sins or failings. For example, an abusive parent might have his aura stained with the repeated phrase "I beat my kids." Theoretical thaumaturges believe this "karmic pollution" is actually a side effect of some karma or energy being lost from the addicts, but there is no sign of actual Essence or Karma loss except in the worst cases, and that no different than in any other severe drug addicts.
The origins of the drug can be traced to the semi-successfuly bioengineering experiments run by the Ghost Cartels. Through selected breeding, cross-fertilization, and a bit of luck they have managed to breed several different varieties of strange and unusual coca plants-but nothing that can produce what they need in quantity. That changes when one of their prime plants is inhabited by a free spirit. The spirit can provide the raw material (in the form of radical reagents with its Wealth power and the unique biology of its merged body) for a new Awakened drug to be produced in bulk, and even cuttings that can grow into new plants.
(+3 to all Perception tests related to magic, including Assensing tests)
Negative Quality: Long time users, even without the drug, might experience a unique form of flashbacks where in periods of stress (determined by the gamemaster) they experience brief, hallucinogenic flashes of astral perception. Essentially, this means they gain a Magic of 1 that can never be increased. While astrally perceiving in this fashion, the subject also experiences headaches, convulsions, and is generally incapacitated and incapable of other activity. Characters that know that these episodes are actually instances of astral perception can try to make use of them, by means of learning the Assensing skill (the only magical skill they can learn), but they cannot control the timing or duration of the astral perception.
Dona Rowena O'Malley discusses the disturbing happenings on the street with Saturn, head of the Order of Merlyn.
Things begin in week 3. There are rumblings in the party scenes and on the streets of Hong Kong and Seattle. Something new, something wild. The flash drug of choice. Very small, very select, this is just another by-line item for this week's posting on latest nanosecond trends, right? Wrong. This one is weird.
Nephrine takes the stage, with Winterhawk doing back-up on the magic angle, to provide a short but detailed brief on Awakened drugs. This is the same chemical showing up in two sprawls, almost identical, with astounding effects. It cannot be coincidence-so the question is, who is dealing, and why?
The answers come from the runners on the street. In Seattle, Kay St. Irregular gives the dirty on the Ku'mongo Ring and the Dogmen. In Honk Kong, Jimmy No talks about the Black Crysanthemums.
This is week 12. Violence has begun to break out in Seattle and Hong Kong, and reports come in of the drug in Los Angeles and Neo-Tokyo as well. More about the drug comes out as user testimonials come in. The magical community begins to take an interest as well.
Overview by Mihoshi Oni on the Neo-Tokyo trade, let by the Mita-gumi (Jurojin's faction), and by Sticks on the Los Angeles trade (led by a local AmerInd gang-no Aztlaner connections). Sunshine and others attempt to trace the origins of the drug.
Week 24. This section opens with Lone Star and Interpol reports on the increasing gang and syndicate activity in many sprawls. Scattered reports of RainBlow being dealt in cities throughout the Ring of Fire. First hints of secondary effects.
Week 26. Nephrine publishes a shadow-account of the drug, its nature and effects, though he cannot pinpoint its origin. Knight Errant surprises many by announcing at a conference that the source of the drug is of Latin America. The 'brujah' begin reinforcing the local distributors.
Week 27. A major breakthrough as Interpol seizes a large shipment (which can be stolen back in an adventure track), with some evidence that it was meant for a corporate buyer interested in other uses of the drug. Enforcement agencies interfere with the conflict.
Week 29. Led by the brujah, the conflict continues unabated. Several sprawls, notably Seattle and Neo-Tokyo, have resorted to limited military deployment to cease gang violence. Precision assassinations take out mundane warhawks while Ares Firewatch teams handle brujah and Awakened assets.
Week 30. First drug casaulties. Rumormongering of the origins of the drug, attempts to reverse engineer it or push similar products, warnings of what to look out for, addicts in cracked-down sprawls going through withdrawal (notable for Martyr's Tears, crying black or bloody fluids).
Week 33. Renewed violence. A breakaway sect of the Ghost Cartel has allied with the Mita-gumi.
Major showdown in Caracas. A massive joint task force of law enforcement and associated corporate and government agencies sweeps in to Caracas, capturing several key figures in the organization. In sprawls around the rim, distributors and chemists sell themselves into service to whichever gang or syndicate they feel can protect or pay them enough. The remnants of the Ghost Cartel fade away into the jungle, beyond the reach of the law.
The key components of an Awakened drug are that they have a mineral or biological basis that cannot be synthesized, they can be mass-produced, and they provide a noticeably unique or stronger effect than other drugs. Generally speaking, this means cultivating a paracritter or Awakened plant, both of which are relatively rare and can be difficult or dangerous to manage, in large quantities. There are other options, but those tend to be more fantastic, such as mining a particular Awakened mineral or using the by-products of alchemical refining operations.
The ideal solution is an Awakened plant that can be hybridized with existing coca plants, either through grafts (cutting off a branch of an Awakened plant and attaching it to the coca plant), crosspollination (using pollen from one plant to fertilize another), genetic recombination (hit or miss, since the sequences you’re trying to transplant and probably metatraits, and the results are likely non-viable), or a combination of these techniques. There are other methods, such as particular environmental factors (grown under magical light, specific fertilizers, etc.), deliberate attempts at mutation (involving direct exposure to radiation or some toxic mutagen), or infection with a species-specific virus or bacterium, but these are generally out of the price range for a syndicate.
Totally unrelated note, I found some more cutting-room-floor stuff:
OPTIONAL RULE: ESSENTIAL SPIRIT FORMULAE
The spirit formula is a touchstone that allows a free spirit to interact with this world. If every copy of a free spirit’s formula is destroyed, the free spirit is disrupted and cannot return until a new copy of the spirit formula is created. This is not quite the same as “death” or permanent banishment, although it is severely inconvenient for the free spirit as they have little or no way of influencing this world from the metaplanes.
For a new copy of the spirit formula to be made requires the intervention of a magician—something the spirit has little or no control over. Most often, this involves the discovery of the spirit’s true name, which is discreetly imprinted somewhere near where the spirit was born free, or its astral signature—though the latter fades fairly quickly. Clues and records to the spirit’s existence, such as an astral photograph of the free spirit’s aura or astral signature, can serve as the impetus for an astral quest to recall the spirit’s true name.
A spirit knows instantly when and where a new instance of its spirit formula is created, and can return to the world immediately. Player character free spirits (p.91, Runners Companion) may spend a permanent point of Edge to avoid losing the last copy of their spirit formula.
OPTIONAL RULE: NEGOTIABLE PACTS
While many free spirits are highly limited in the pacts they can make, they have somewhat more leeway in what they can demand and offer—possibly the origin of the Faustian bargain. In this case, the spirit and character who decide to enter into a pact must negotiate. This negotiation must be roleplayed between the player character and the gamemaster (if the free spirit is an NPC) or another player character (if the free spirit is a PC) with no roll of any kind. Both sides must agree to the terms of the agreement of their own free will.
Assets that either side offers or asks for must be quantifiable and something that the other can deliver. Spirits are generally limited in what they can offer—see Spirit Pacts (p.108, Street Magic) for guidelines—but a negotiable pact allows them to ask for Karma, personal property, services, etc. in exchange, or apply stipulations and limitations. For their part, the player character can counteroffer and add their own stipulations to the pact.
Neither side can offer something they patently cannot deliver—for example, a player cannot offer their character’s soul, nor could a gamemaster playing the part of a spirit offer something as open-ended as “three wishes,” though they could offer a specific number of spirit services.
Either side can attempt to threaten or intimidate the other by physical or psychological means, and negotiations may be made while one or both parties are under duress, ill, inebriated, or otherwise not at their full faculties. As there is no roll, these states do not offer any real penalties to the negotiations (though roleplaying is encouraged). No form of magical persuasion can force an individual into a spirit pact, however, which includes possession, critter and spirit powers, spells, adept abilities, and magical compounds.
Characters and spirits cannot agree to a spirit pact on behalf of another character or spirit.
When both parties are agreed, the pact immediately goes into place. Because of the magic of the pact, both parties are under a compulsion to fulfill the agreed-upon-terms to the best of their ability. A player character that deliberately shirks their side of the bargain becomes a non-player character under the gamemaster’s control until the conditions of the pact are fulfilled.
>>>>> BEGIN EXAMPLE STYLE
Bobby’s character Sticks needs an edge, and calls on one of his most obscure contacts: the free fire spirit known as Ludgate. After arranging a meeting, Sticks and the spirit begin to negotiate a spirit pact.
At this point, Bobby and Jennifer, his gamemaster, work out the details of the pact. Bobby (playing Sticks) asks for the use of Ludgate’s Elemental Attack (Fire) for three days; that is within Ludgate’s powers so Jennifer (playing Ludgate) counters by demanding 30 Karma for this use of her power.
After some haggling, the two agree that Sticks will give Ludgate 2 Karma up front and additional 2 Karma each time he uses her power over the next three days.
>>>>> END EXAMPLE STYLE
The Spirit Pact Power
Negotiable Pact is an option available to player-character free spirits when they buy the Spirit Pact power; the Negotiable Pact applies to one other specific pact and allows the player character to negotiate the conditions of the pact somewhat, by offering additional spirit services or asking for additional Karma or resources on the part of the other character in the pact.
>>>>> BEGIN EXAMPLE STYLE
Graham is building a new free spirit player character named Ocsaleb, and he wants to start the game with the Spirit Pact (Friendship Pact, Negotiable Friendship Pact) powers. Before the game starts, Graham talks with his friends Gilly and Mike about their characters entering into a Negotiable Friendship Pact with Ocsaleb, who wants his friends to support him as a guest in their shared apartment/headquarters. After some discussion, Gilly and Mike (through their characters) agree—but only if Ocsaleb agrees to give them a free service (each) every week he stays a guest.
>>>>> END EXAMPLE STYLE
Okay, this one is interesting. Back at the tail end of SR3, when I was actually trying to be a freelancer, I played with the idea for a series of stories based around a female mage-detective in New Orleans, to be submitted as webfiction. It didn't amount to a great deal by the time I abandoned it for other projects, but 'round about Christmas time a couple years back I got this desperate e-mail asking for two stories to go in SR4A - one of them was Happy Trails, and the other one I put together based on what I remembered of my mage-detective, since at the time I didn't have access to the actual files. It's pretty rough, but might be interesting to some of y'all for comparison purposes.
Case File 01: You've gotta start somewhere.
It's wrong to visit the French Quarter at seven on a Monday morning. Beignet, cafe and the smell of vomit. There's no life before the gloaming hours, when the crowds come and the bars are at their prettiest. My left hand stays on my satchel though - crime never sleeps. I stroll down old streets to meet my client. The astral buzzes with the tickling flow of wild magic. In New Orleans, you can almost navigate the streets by smelling the tang of magic...here, a corner is marked indelibly by a dozen murders. There, happy tourists and partygoers have left their mark on the statue of St. Joan d'Arc. I could almost mark the passage of hours by the slow evaporation of last nights revels and bloody deeds. With a final taste of powdered sugar, I arrive at my destination: 724 Rue Dumaine - Le Musee Du Voudou.
Le Musee is an old attraction, predating the Awakening by nearly forty years. It holds the scraps left by Marie Laveau as a reliquary might keep the bones of some poor hermit who had to be slaughtered to become a saint. It's an open secret that this new, expanded tourist-hall has the sponsorship of the Voice of Ogoun. It might have begun as a screen to weed out the pretentious and the covetous, but rumors claim the museum has become a clearing-house for historical artifacts the Voice doesn't want to be caught buying...or selling.
Msr. St. Croix meets me at the door. An older ork, he plays the part of a gentleman, peppering his speech with the quaint inflections of both French and Spanish. "Mademoiselle Dee, I am so glad that you could come. We are in a most extraordinary predicament, and one in need of your special skills to solve." With double vision, I see his sad tusked smile and the clear colors of his aura. Worried, with a touch of anger and a touch of fear, but not lying outright. Half-truths are only common courtesy in these circles. The mild glow of a fetish graces his neck: a St. Christopher amulet. It would be hard for one to run this place and not be a believer. The old wood floors creak a greeting to my sneakers, while I say my own blessings to the frigid indoor air. You can practically swim through New Orleans, no matter the time of day.
St. Croix guides me through the gallery. Like all such places, the emphasis is on the displays of gris-gris and govi, old books of dead paper beneath glass cases, the walls adorned with African masks and instruments, darkened swords and archaic pistols. More telling is the lack of more modern displays: no holograms or trideo sets, no 'trode-nets or jackplugs for virtual guided tours. Here and there are set elaborately-decorated shrines to the Loa, the dull painted eyes of saints hiding whatever fearsome image they might otherwise present. These displays, both garish and humble, draw the eye from the security cameras, from the reinforced windows beset with alarms, and from the unobtrusive Knight Errant guardians who lurk about. The astral shows no wards, no guardian spirits. A certain greasy presence indicates the altars are more than mere tourist dressing; the apparent corpse of a zombie appeared to be a clever mannequin.
The case is laid out as we approach the back rooms, passing through offices to a crowded workshop, where finds are inspected and displays refinished or repaired. A central work table is prominent: unlike every other surface it has been swept clean, save for the blood dripping down from it. The sight in the astral is less pleasant, the table is amidst a cloud of violent astral energy. I ignore it and take in the room. Faint traces here and there suggest it was warded not long ago. With a polite throat-clearing that turns into the cough of the habitual smoker, St. Croix draws my attention again.
"A Yoruba double-headed drum in remarkable condition." He rumbled. "We have sent samples of the drum skin and the wood to the for dating. A prize of our collection, should the tests confirm its authenticity." St. Croix played with a holoprojector until it produced the eighteen-centimeter-high image of an hourglass-shape, rotating on an invisible axis. "At 4:15 this morning, the ward surrounding this room was destroyed. The cameras monitoring the room saw nothing, the doors appear to have remained locked. No night staff were present at that hour. A security team has swept the building. Nothing." St. Croix was agitated, and took a moment to regain his composure. "We are loathe to involve the police in this matter. I am in need of both your powers and your discretion - the drum must be recovered as quickly and quietly as possible."
"Down to business then, Monsieur. One thousand per diem, plus expenses, and one thousand in advance. Nuyen." It was a very modest price, but I really didn't have a reputation to speak of yet. The only reason I'd even been considered for this job was because I knew a hounsis at a honfour dedicated to Chango in old Algiers. St. Croix nodded. "Please start your operations, I shall return in a few moments." So saying, the ork left the room, shutting the door behind him. Showtime.
A greater part of my training has been in forensic thaumaturgy, and I surveyed the room with senses physical and metaphysical. I broke out part of my kit: UV flashlight, infrared goggles with magnification, latex gloves, measuring tape, sprinklers of Luminal, a fingerprint duster, a sheet of e-paper and little plastic sample bags. The three security cameras were on the ceiling; I noted them by the small, dull glow of heat they gave off - they really should upgrade, someone with cyberears could probably hear them whine. No recent scrapes or scratches on either of the doors or the locks. Just for the hell of it, I checked the hinges, but they were both on the inside and looked not to have been tampered with. I emptied the trashcans: some packing material, food wrappers, an empty can of tobacco-colored varnish, and scribbled notes in English and French concerning refinishing various fetishes, garde and masks. Nothing concerning a drum. I dusted for prints on and around the door handles, and on the edges of the workbench. Twenty-four usable prints altogether. I taped them and stuck them in my kit for later.
Latex gloves on, now. It's funny to think that they used to be used to prevent corrupting the scene of the crime. Nowadays, I just don't want to leave any prints in case the police come looking after me. I wasn't looking forward to working with the blood puddle. The stories you hear about people catching HMHVV by falling on a dirty spoon or something is mostly myth. They said the same thing about AIDS, once. Scientists scoffed and said "Highly unlikely." Forensics people smiled grimly and pulled on their latex gloves then, and still do today. Better safe than infected with some horrible, nasty disease that - at best - would kill you.
It looked like drying blood, and it smelled like drying blood. I picked an area at the edge of the puddle and dosed it with Luminal, hit the overheads off and went over it with my UV flashlight. The little corner glowed. I swept the flashlight around the rest of the room, but nothing else of interest showed up. St. Croix turned on the lights as he came in. "Pardon moi, I didn't mean to interrupt your investigations." He held a an unlit brownie-brown cigar in one hand. After a moment for my eyes to adjust, I answered. "Not at all, Msr. I'm just about to begin the thaumaturgical analyses." St. Croix nodded, and brought the cigar up to his mouth to chew on it. His other brought forth a tightly-wound wad of plastic-weave notes. "I trust cash is acceptable?" A nodded assent and an accepting palm signaled my affirmative.
St. Croix watched as I studied the astral. The most obvious thing, of course, was the background count covering the worktable with the blood. So I studied the where the ward was instead. Magical operations leave an astral signature behind, a signature that I can detect and derive information from. Only there wasn't any. I hadn't really expected one from the ward's creator - his or her signature faded a few hours after the ward was renewed - but if the thief had used a spell or spirit, it should have left something. That left meant the barrier had either been defeated in astral combat, or the thief had erased the astral signature afterwards. "Msr. St. Croix, when were your wards last renewed?"
"Saturday, mademoiselle. Our wards are always renewed on Saturday." He was looking constipated, but his aura seemed to indicate he was cogitating. Back to work. It was harder to see anything within the cloud, but I couldn't pick up an astral signature. Damn. I didn't like the look of that blood. It was just sitting in one puddle, no droplet to either side, no splashes or wiping apparent anywhere. Too purposeful. Well, there were one thing left to try before I was reduced to psychometry. I moved my mind through a familiar spell, designed to analyze blood samples. Ideal for lab work. In the field, it was a bit more difficult: the background count would be working against me. I opened myself up to the mana, let it flow through the complex pattern I had created, centered it on the pointer finger of my left hand, dipped into the blood. The information fed back to me: chicken blood. A slight hint of some poultry disease. That was it.
St. Croix was silent throughout my deliberations and actions. His aura betrayed a surprisingly lack of curiosity. I took a moment to record my current findings on the sheet of e-paper. Steeling myself for what was to come, I let my right hand dip into the blood, closing my physical eyes. I could still see in the astral, and the cloud of dark energy, the edges slowly evaporating into the ether. There was a pattern etched into the astral landscape here, where the blood was spilled. Like an optical illusion, the dark cloud seemed to separate into different aspects. Unknowing fear. A dim awareness. A life bled out with cold purpose.
There was a psychic imprint connecting these, holding the dour cloud together, unraveling slowly. I pushed my perceptions there - it was an image of a black cockerel, held upside down, the blood dripping from a the half-obscured hole where the head had been cut off - it fixed itself in my mind and I shuddered against the minor psychic backlash. Like an ice cream headache, but worse. I stripped off the soiled gloves and threw them away. Whatever clever bastard had done this, they'd used the death of the chicken to mask the scene. Still, I wasn't done yet. I turned back to St. Croix.
"Has anyone opened this door?" I pointed to the one that ran to the alley behind the museum, rather than the one that led back to the museum itself. "No, mademoiselle. Not since a delivery yesterday morning." With a nod, I touch the door handle with my right hand and opened myself to the astral. The door was dull, but something had touched it. It felt cold. A card went into the lock, and the lock opened. The hand that opened the door was cold and had no pulse, then the door shut. There was a short vertigo as I felt the light brushing of myself dusting the door for fingerprints, then nothing. I opened my eyes. It was easier this time. I felt a tired and a little hungry, but no more headache. Once more, I scrawled my notes on the sheet of e-paper, then took another look around the room. One last check for missing pieces. Finding nothing, I took a few moments to erase my own astral signature from the room.
“I believe I’m about done here.” I addressed St. Croix “But I’ll need copies of the recordings from the security cameras. I have enough information to start looking for the thief, but I suggest you get those drum samples back from the lab.” St. Croix gave a questioning glance, so I explained. “If I can’t find the thief, I’ll need to use ritual magic to locate the drum itself.” The ork gnawed on his cigar. “Very well. I’ll see what I can do. The monitor room is this way.” So saying we took one more tour through the museum. A few early tourists were filtering in. I restrained myself from waving at the Knight Errant officers. They'd be sweltering in that light body armor if they were outside. St. Croix disapeared inside, and returned in a few minutes with an optical chip and an old-fashioned paper business card. "Farewell, mam'zelle. Please contact me as soon as you locate the drum." I stashed chip and card in my satchel, and shook the ork's hand before taking my leave.
The early morning promise had become a sauna. Steam rose from the street and the sun shown too damn bright. I took refuge in a bookshop and stared at the prints on the wall, thinking on the case. Cameras can be fooled and cyberhands don't leave prints, but any act of magic leaves a trace. A clever mundane might have killed the chicken, but a mundane couldn't have brought down that ward without destroying the walls, too. Why cover your tracks after you've erased them?
Morning comes to me with the gurlging hiss of the coffee machine and the soft purr of the cleaning 'bot. About a million miles away I catch the aroma, and some primeval part of my brain twitches and comes to attention. I spare a fraction of attention and the ghostly image of my retinal clock floats amid my vision of the Matrix. Oh-eight-hundred hours. Damn. Time to get up.
The logoff isn't as graceful as I'd like. I let my eyes adjust to the light as I unplug the cyberterminal cord from the datajack at the base of my skull. My hands move down to massage pins-and-needles into numb feet, my eyes watch a plastic and chrome horseshoe crab spray insecticide along the wall. Preventative maintenance. Termites are bitch in Louisiana.
I know the coffee isn’t ready yet, so I move into some simple yoga stretches, then push-ups and crunches. Some old habits die easy. That’s why you have to work to maintain them. I finish my set just as the coffee gets done, and pad barefoot across the hardwood floor of my condo to the kitchen.
I measure out my coffee with as much care and attention as I do when playing alchemist. A dash of cardamom, a spoonful of falernum. Stir. Taste. Black as sin and nowhere near as sweet. It flows a warm, black river down my throat, pooling in my belly. I crane my head to get the last bittersweet drops. One cup of real coffee in the morning is an expensive vice, but at least you can look forward to a day of soy, krill and mycoprotein without killing yourself.
My Matrix searches hadn’t paid off much. The museum, as I had surmised, wasn’t quite on the up-and-up. They dealt with talisleggers, rogue archaeologists and antiquities dealers, purchasing artifacts and journals from Africa, the Caribbean and the South. Small-time compared to larger museums and foundations, but they made up for it with a narrow focus. Despite the tourist drek I’d seen yesterday, le Musee had a collection of Voudoun artifacts rivaling the Voice of Ogoun itself - which is probably why the choice pieces ended up going to the museum’s anonymous sponsor in “private sales” and “extended loans.”
So much for that. I needed a real technomancer - not just a mage who knows how to balance her electronic checkbook program. Which meant I needed to see Le Fousteu first.
Le Fousteu is a small-time dealer that worked out of some decrepit house the last three generations, at least. He had some weird connections - small time miracle workers and wannabes, hangers-on and the grubbiest sort of talismongers. Oh, and me. I had the cab drop me off two blocks away and walked the rest of the way, ork grandmothers and rude boys staring all the way.
I banged three times on the door before coming in. Unlocked. If I've told him once, I've told him a thousand times that'll be the death of him one of these days.
You can spend worse minutes than strolling around the sitting room of a dingy house in old Algiers run by a mad drug dealer who's in with the mojo crowd. I was reading a wall covered with pages from a copy of Cannabis Alchemy when I heard him coming in.
A rainbow-striped snake with intelligent eyes, its fangs dripping strands of mana rather than venom.
Falernum Notes: This is a Caribbean cane syrup that's delicately flavored and slightly alcoholic. It's sometimes used in rum-based cocktails.
00. Demon Drum, ancient slave ship tattoo, Pietro possessed, intro to Pietro, Dee hired to find Pietro
01. The Old Man. Know When to Die. 30 when the Awakening hit. Dying. My life.
02. Book authentication (4th Mauvais Manual), meets up with Loremonger, Wordeaters-oral tradition, hate written word
03. Oracle (shedim) Meets up with "Ghostbuster" Mannix, mundane, silver-bullet type
04. City Adept - "All the heroes are dead." Hired by Mob to stop him
05. Hired to bury a book (Dead Man's Book), first encounter with Kay
06. Duelling, two blades: one gold-handled iron, other silver-handled silver, both blade inscribed w/charcters
07. Ritual Healing hampered by demon rat, "Ghostbuster" guest-stars
08. Voodoo gangs in New Orleans, Zombie brothel, Dee, Kay, possessed python, Pietro does Rada rite
09. Hobgoblin & Goblin care facility, cyclopean ghoul on the loose with Eye of Horus
10. Bone Merchant-backstory of Dead Man's Book
11. Initiation - Wordeaters, Kay backstory, drink wine/ink, eat ashes
12. Waiting. Ritual summoning coming down, Pietro drums to protect
13. Witch's Compass, throwdown with Kay
14. Haunting. Pietro and Dee confront spooks with drumming
"Magic is not occultism. The dogma and trappings of the occult remain, but there is no need of the lore itself. For millenia, magi have hungered for the gnosis, the secret knowledge that would unlock the world. Now that they have it, what need of the dross?"
Cyberware: (all alpha)
Datajack (0.16) [legal]
Fingertip Compartment (0.08) [legal] (feed for autoinjector)
Image link (0.16) [legal]
Knowsoft link (0.08) [legal]
Retinal Clock (0.08) [legal]
Reusable Autoinjector (0.08) [permit] (two doses)
[typically psyche or zen, with antidote]
Initiate Grade: 3
Metamagics: Absorbing, Psychometry, Sensing
Area: Middle (3)
Comforts: Middle (3)
Entertainment: Low (2)
Furnishings: Middle (3)
Security: High (4)
Space: High (4)
Edges: Insurance, Reliable Utilities
Flaws: Bad Reputation, Intolerant Neighbors
Pietro (serviteur of Shango)
Initiate Grade: 4
Metamagics: Centering (athletics, stealth, musical skills), Limited Astral Projection, Virtuoso
Geasa: Must drum to center, astrally project, or perform a virtuoso piece
Aid Spell (2) (Geas: Only while drumming)
Astral Perception (Geas: Only while drumming)
Elemental Strike (Fire, Lightning) (Geas: Only when possessed by spirit of Shango)
Enthralling Performance (drumming)
Improved Ability (Drumming) (10) (Geas: Only when performing magic)
Killing Hands (Deadly) (Geas: Only when possessed by spirit of Shango)
Living Focus (Geas: Only when drumming)
hand of glory (buried)
small wood chest of gold Roman coins
RUNNERS COMPANION PROPOSAL
By Bobby Derie
ALTERNATE BUILD SYSTEMS
I’d like to suggest two alternate build systems: Karma-based and QuickCraft; the former is more detailed than build points (for detail minded players), while the latter would be very fast and easier to use for new players. QuickCraft could also be used by GMs to quickly assemble NPCs as needed.
Karma-based Character Generation
Rather than use Build Points (BPs) characters would be given Karma and allowed to build their characters using the rules for Character Improvement on p.264 of SR4. This section would include rules to smooth the character process (including a Karma-for-nuyen rule only to be used at chargen, 1 Karma = 2,500 nuyen). Beginning characters would receive 800 Karma. Due to differences in chargen and post-chargen development costs, the advantage can be slightly on the side of Karma chargen. The major advantage of a Karma-based Chargen is for players that want more control over their character generation and are willing to take the time and effort to do so. Also, it would help familiarize the players with the Karma character development system.
This system is a four step mix-and-match of different “suites.” Players or gamemaster can quickly create PCs and NPCs by selecting the relevant suites and adding the results together; this system can easily be used to quickly create PCs comparable to those of the standard BP system, or stronger or weaker as needs may be.
Each “suite” would contain skills, attributes, and equipment suitable to that type of character. The suites would be balanced to prevent mixmatch (a character could not take both the Adept and Technomancer qualities, for example) and death at chargen (from excessive implants). The cost of each suite would be balanced with other suites of the same class, but may not be empirically equal (i.e. if two Background suites were converted to BPs, they would not necessarily be about the same, but the resulting character would be). Some chargen taboos (maximum BP of qualities) might also be violated, but this would not be unduly imbalanced as QuickCraft characters are not going to be as precisely-honed as standard BP or Karma chargen characters—no maxing out attributes or the like.
What follows is a short overview of the four step process and two examples for each suite. Please note these are all very rough at the moment, but enough to give you an idea.
Step 1. Background
More than metatype, a character’s lifestyle growing up determines their educational, economic, and sometimes health background; how they grew up, what schooling they’ve had, what skills they brought with them. The background also determine the character’s starting equipment and lifestyle.
You grew up in relative luxury to the rest of the Sixth World; you attended better schools, ate well, received regular medical care and probably had some minor cosmetic surgery done before you got out of your private high school. On the other hand, your affluence also means you’re in the system.
Attributes: Body 2, Strength 1, Agility 1, Reaction 1, Logic 1, Willpower 1
Skills: Computer 3, Data Search 3, Economics 3, Influence 3, Japanese 2
Gear: Commlink (Transys Metalink with Novatech Navi), Datajack (Betaware), High Lifestyle (2 months), Platinum DocWagon Contract (1 year)
Contacts: Corporate Lawyer, University Dean
You grew up on the streets of a major metroplex. There are things you’ve done to survive that you’re not proud of, but at least you have survived—that’s more than some can say. Self-educated, self-made—you don’t owe anybody a damn thing, and they don’t owe anything to you.
Attributes: Body 1, Agility 1, Reaction 2, Intuition 2, Willpower 1
Skills: Cityspeak 3, Close Combat 2, Outdoors 2, Stealth 1, Street Drugs 2
Gear: Knife, Commlink (MetaLink with Vector Xvim) w/trodes, Street Lifestyle
Contacts: Drug Dealer, Fence, Fixer
Step 2. Archetype
An archetype covers the most basic spectrum of shadowrunner careers: Combat Specialist, Face, Hacker, Magician, Technomancer. These characters can be further defined in Step 3. Each archetype brings with it certain traits and gear common to that career.
Combat Specialist Archetype
More than just some rabid street punk that likes to get her hands dirty, the combat specialist is trained in the arts of combat. While not a world-class martial artist, the Combat Specialist can more than hold her own in a fight, and has the scars to prove it.
Attributes: Body 1, Agility 1, Reaction 1, Willpower 1
Skills: Close Combat 2, Firearms 4, Gunnery 1, Military Jargon 3, Throwing Weapons 2
Qualities: Martial Arts (2), Toughness
Gear: Ares Predator IV w/2 clips, Armor Jacket, Contact Lenses with Smartlink and Image Link, Extendable Baton, Lone Star SWAT cyberware suite (Watchman version), Throwing Knives (2)
Contacts: Desert Wars Veteran, Mercenary
Magic suffuses the Sixth World, and the magicians act to channel and direct those mystic forces to her whims. No matter what her background, magicians of all stripes tend to cultivate formidable personalities and an air of the arcane.
Attributes: Charisma 2, Intuition 2, Logic 2, Willpower 3, Magic 3
Skills: Arcana 3, Conjuring 3, Enchanting 2, Magic Background 3, Sorcery 3, Wiz 2
Qualities: Magician, Mentor Spirit, Nano Intolerance
Gear: Fake licenses for all spells, Spells (Analyze Magic, Bugs, Crank, Firewater, Heal, Hearing Removal, Ignite, Knockout, Sterilize, Thought Recognition), Binding Materials (Force 3), 3 doses of psyche
Contacts: Lone Star Forensic Thaumaturgist, Talismonger
Note: Characters with the Magician Archetype cannot also take the Technomancer Archetype.
Step 3. Specialty
Beyond basic archetypes, players can further define (and specialize) their characters either by taking a second archetype, a speciality, including metahuman-specific suites. For example, a player who wants a Combat Hacker could take both the Hacker and Combat Specialist archetypes, while a player who wants a Rigger could take the Hacker archetype and the Rigger specialty. Players that want to get the most out of their metahumanity can forgo a specialty by taking a metahuman-specific suite.
A combat adept approaches warfare like an artform, magic fuelling her deadly dance through her battlefield canvas. Where others use implants to push themselves beyond metahuman limits, the combat adept relies on her own inner magic.
Attributes: Body 1, Agility 1, Strength 1, Reaction 1, Willpower 1, Magic 2
Skills: Arcana 1, Close Combat 1, Firearms 1, Magic Background 1, Meditation 2
Qualities: Adept, Focus Addiction (Mild), Martial Arts (2)
Gear: Adept Powers [Astral Perception, Counterstrike, Elemental Strike (Electricity)], Weapon Focus (Rating 2, bonded, brass knuckles—treat as hardliner glove), Leather Jacket
Contacts: Martial Arts Instructor
Note: Characters with the Technomancer Archetype cannot take the Combat Adept specialty; if a player chooses to take both the Magician Archetype and the Combat Adept speciality, she gains the Mystic Adept quality instead of the Magician or Adept qualities.
Bigger and stronger than most metahumans, orks have emerged as a very vocal and active subculture in the 2070s, helped in part by the emergence of a unique racial language—Or’zet—and the Orxploitation and Goblin Rock phenomena led by Ork artists like CrimeTime and rock-poet Bobby Page. The Seattle Metroplex, particularly the Ork Underground and the local trog slang studded with or’zet loanwords, is especially prominent in Ork culture.
Attributes: Body 1, Charisma 1
Skills: First Aid (Poisons) 3, Or’zet 3, Ork Underground 3, Trog 3
Qualities: Allergy (Silver, Mild)
Gear: A six-pack of Orkstaff’s XXX (6 doses of hurlg), glasses w/flare compensation and image link, Chrysler-Nissan Patrol 1 (modified for an ork)
Contacts: Goblin Rocker, Ork Rights Committee member
Note: Characters with the Ork speciality are of the Ork metatype.
Step 4. Putting It All Together and Finishing Touches
At the end, the players have 50 BP to spend on extra touches—picking a metatype (if they haven’t already), upping skills or attributes, buying extra qualities or equipment, etc. Then they add it all together, with a few final decisions—tradition (if a magician), native language, etc.—and then calculate damage tracks and final Essence.
For example, if I wanted to make a combat-savvy ork mystic adept using the suites above, I would use the Street Background, Magician archetype, Combat Adept specialty, and then spend 20 BP for the Ork metatype, their attributes and skills would be base (for metatype) + mods (for background, archetype, and speciality), which would appear as follows (keep in mind there would be 30 BP left for min/maxing et al.):
BOD AGI REA STR CHA INT LOG WIL INI MAG ESS
6 3 4 4 3 5 3 6 2 5 6
Active Skills: Arcana 4, Close Combat 3, Conjuring 3, Enchanting 2, Firearms 1, Outdoors 2, Sorcery 3, Stealth 1
Knowledge Skills: Magic Background 4, Meditation 2, Street Drugs 2
Language Skills: Cityspeak 3, Wiz 2
Qualities: Guts, Mystic Adept
ADVANCED CHARACTER CREATION SYSTEMS
The following are more notes than an outright proposal; I’d enjoy doing part of this section but I’m probably in the minority for my takes on some of this.
Infected, Drakes, Shapeshifters, and Other Sentient Critters
I’d recommend leaving these guys out for Running Wild; mainly because there’s a lot of weirdness we simply haven’t worked out all of the kinks in the current system. Every paracritter (which includes practically every sentient critter) has an inherent Magic Attribute which will have to be dealt with, for example. This is fairly easy at chargen: simply set the minimum attribute and incorporate it into the base BP cost.
With respect to the Infected, transformation after chargen is where it gets tricky: say an adept with Magic 5 becomes a ghoul (innate Magic 1), or a character with astral sight (Magic 1) becomes a vampire (innate Magic 3). My personal rule of thumb with ghouls is that the higher magic prevails; this would give a former mundane a Magic of 1 but not lower the Magic of an established Awakened character. With vampires (banshees, goblins, etc.) that require the Essence Drain and “death” before transformation, I would suggest replacing the character’s Magic attribute with the innate Magic attribute for the critter, under the logic that the character’s Magic was lowered commensurately with her Essence.
Another wrinkle on Infection is, of course, Essence Loss. The simple solution, at least in the case of bioware and Essence-costing geneware, is that the organic implants/genetweaks are absorbed/overwritten during the transformation, with the Essence “hole” repaired as the aura/body adjusts to its new template. Cyberware is harder; it could, as in the past, be ruled that critters with Regeneration (like vampires) simply reject cyberware/nanoware during the transformation, and the same Essence-repair takes place; it only becomes an issue with Infected without regeneration when the Essence Loss from the still-extant cyberware would drop their Essence below 1, as any Infected would need at least Essence 1 to maintain an innate Magic 1 and survive.
An odd tweak to consider for the Infected: instead of a couple of principle virus strains (HMHVV 1, HMHVV 2, Krieger Strain), have each “expression” be a separate strain that only causes its transformation in a subject of a suitable metahuman species. For example, the strain the causes Dzoo-noo-qua would not cause vampirism in humans or turn an elf into a banshee. This can be worked into the fluff pretty easily and might solve some headaches mechanics-wise.
A large part of drakes is the transformation process, which doesn’t always occur at chargen. I would suggest a Latent Dracomorphosis Quality or somesuch along the lines of the Latent Awakening Quality.
One possibility for sentient non-paracritters would be dolphins, chimpanzees, or great apes with a form of intelligence enhancer to bring them up to metahuman intelligence levels (or at least let them communicate as such). This is pretty out there as an idea, but would probably be equivalent to a specialized cerebral booster bioware implant, which would be reflected in beginning Essence and BP costs.
Ghosts In the Machine and Free Spirits
Personally, I think it would be much more balanced to address these character options as displaced (i.e. surviving without a body) virtual/astral forms (and using the rules for those forms) than full-fledged AIs and Free Spirits. The main problem with PC Free Spirits and AIs is that they are very powerful in comparison to normal metahumans (being effectively immortal in some respects), and there are few ways to effectively balance them without crippling them as characters, such as ruling a Free Spirit PC does not earn its own Karma and must negotiate with PCs and NPCs instead.
If the displaced virtual/astral form idea is a worthwhile alternative to consider, then character generation would follow the standard guidelines with some slight changes; tighter BP restrictions on attributes (as there are less attributes to spend it on) and the ability to purchase certain AI/free spirit powers for set BP costs. I’d probably make it equivalent to an echo/metamagic, but a more straightforward 20 BP or something would probably be more attractive to players.
ADVANCED CONTACT RULES
The QuickCraft system can be used to easily flesh out NPCs, and could easily work for fleshing out contacts as well. Alternately, I would suggest a list of modifiers based on the contact’s affiliations, similar to the table that appeared in Corporate Download which reflected a greater knowledge in certain areas of interest pertaining to that corporation, but expanded to reflect other group affiliations (Organized Crime, Initiate Groups, Foundations, Government Bodies, Tribes or other ethnic groups). For example, a member of the Sinsearach Tribe might be well informed with regards to Tir Tairngire (+2 dice), but poorly informed about Tir na nOg (-1 die).
Groups as Contacts
Hermetic study circles, gangs, rotary clubs, corporate and political committees, theatre troops, Mardi gras krewes, the neighborhood watch, MoSoSos, swingers clubs, online forums, shadowrunner P2.0 fan clubs, and a thousand other organizations and social agglutinations can be contacts for the enterprising runner. Groups are very useful as the many members can have a diverse range of interests and areas of expertise, but at the same time the shadowrunner has to trust that many more people with her inquiries. Getting in touch with most groups is easier in the Sixth World with the ubiquitous wireless interface, though some secretive groups (like shamanic lodges and the corporate old boy’s club that meets informally to play poker and go to strip clubs) might be harder to get in touch with all at once. This is generally reflected in the group’s Availability rating, which is generally equal to its Connection rating.
Ever group has a particular focus, which is related to the purpose of the group, and which it will be much easier to ask them questions and favors about. Even if none of the group members know the answer to the shadowrunner’s question, they can often point out who does. To reflect this, groups receive a +2 dice modifier on Connection Tests.
When dealing with a group, the player character often acts with a point-of-contact; a group member who speaks for the other group members. Often (but not always) this is the formal or informal leader of the group, or at least the one with the highest Charisma and Negotiation. When forced to make any test, it is this character that makes the test. If a character is an actual member of a group when making a request for a favor (or to move swag), they receive a +2 dice modifier on the Negotiation + Charisma Opposed Test.
An example group contact is given below.
Seattle Police Benevolent Society
The Seattle Police Department may be long gone, but some people have very long memories. The SPBS is made up of former and retired members of the SPD and some of their spouses and children; many of whom went to work for Lone Star after they took over policing the city; others went into private security or became private detectives. From its humble beginnings, the SPBS has become a social network connecting disparate elements of law enforcement in Seattle (and occasionally abroad). Many runners connected with the members have secured certain favors with a donation to the Widows and Orphans Fund.
Group Focus: Lone Star in Seattle (+3), Anything Outside of Seattle (-2)
Databases as Contacts
In the Sixth World, you entire life is in a database somewhere, but so is everyone else’s. From medical records to tax databases, online highschool yearbook archives to the most wanted files of Interpol, practically everybody has something online if you can find it. Having a database as a contact either means you subscribe to a private database-searching service (whether legal or not), you have an account on a private database (corporate, government, criminal, or other) through a hidden exploit or some other means, you spend hours and hours searching through a public database, or you have a friend that allows you access to a database—for some form of consideration, probably. This might require a regular upkeep cost for the service or a periodic Hacking + Exploit (Loyalty) Extended Test.
Unlike regular contacts, you can’t negotiate with a database (no matter what technomancers claim). The only thing that matters is whether the data is on the database, whether you can find it (Data Search + Browse Extended Test), and whether the data is available for your account privileges. If you are searching for restricted information, this might require Hacking the system for a higher access rating first. For example, a good university library probably has material on programming viruses and trojans, but it will be restricted to certain users that need that information, not everyone that can use a search engine.
To speed things up (and roleplay a little), characters can use a library scientist managing the database (if there is one) as a point-of-contact—the library scientist can be bribed and negotiated with, and often has a much better Browse program than the average character, or at least searchbots that she can unleash in the right area. Database loyalty depends on account privileges; public accounts have loyalty 1, security accounts loyalty 2-4, and admin accounts 5-6. Like other contacts, a database usually has a specialty.
An example database is given below.
Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BnF) – Le Scriptorium
The pre-eminent public library in France, the BnF contains thousands of French works, including many rare pre-Awakening manuscripts on alchemy, daemonology, cryptography, philosophy, and magic. So much interest has been shown in this area that the administration has created a special database containing scans and holographic representations of these documents, known as the Scriptorium.
Database Focus: Enchanting (+1), Pre-Awakening Magical Texts (+2), French Philosophy (+3), Anything Not In French (-4)
Allies and Enemies
Sometimes, through extensive efforts on the part of a shadowrunner, a contact can exceed Loyalty Rating 6 and become an ally. These are the guys and gals that will avenge your death, visit you every day in prison, and clean up the dead prostitutes without a word. They are loyal to the death (and occasionally, beyond). To make a character into an ally almost requires a campaign in and of itself; the character has to do more than just save the contact’s life (or wife, or kid, or people), she has to do so repeatedly and with no thought of remuneration. Allies should not be treated as regular contacts; they will proactively seek out ways to help the character, even to the point of finding them jobs or hiding their drugs in an act of “tough love.” It’s a complex relationship.
On the other hand, a contact that has been treated very badly by the character will have a much lower Loyalty rating—if the rating ever drops to 0 or below, the character has made an enemy that will actively seek to hamper them—and knows enough about them to have a good idea of how to do so.
The Street Samurai Codes in Arsenal weren't everybody's cup of tea, so I suggested a possible alternative: instead of the proposed advantages/disadvantages, a code is a list of specific "virtues"—living up to the virtues adds to the character's Street Rep (or grants Edge refill, or earns extra Karma), while flagrantly violating them adds to the character's Notoriety—at least when working with other people that have a code (or at least respect those that do). I’ve includes a couple examples below. It’s all GM fiat as to when they’re awarded, so a couple examples of outstanding play will have to be given.
The assassin is a harbinger of death, it is her purpose and her function. To make a living off of death for any period of time requires either severe mental discipline or a callousness bordering on the psychopathic. Many professional hitmen and contract killers retain a set of professional values, even if their moral values are lacking (or missing entirely).
Virtues: Carefulness, Determination, Meticulousness, Perceptive, Remorseless, Thorough, Unemotional
Street samurais are known not only for their skill, but their adherence to a code of values, emulating the stoic and contemplative warrior. Few adherents of Bushido manage to obtain a full understanding of the philosophy in their lifetime, balancing the necessities of the moment and survival on the streets with their spiritual ideals.
Virtues: Courage, Detachment, Determination, Honesty, Honor, Loyalty, Respect
Another nail in this particular coffin...an outline or proposal of sorts based on one of the tricks that appeared in Vice, the "Paper Lotus."
THE PAPER LOTUS
Confidence tricks never completely disappear, but adapt to reflect the times and the needs of the men and women that use them. Take, for example, a trick called the Paper Lotus. In this trick, an expert enchanter, often in concert with a collector or the curator of a museum, discreetly obtains or studies a pre-Awakening magical artifact. The enchanter, using a combination of the Flexible Signature and Masking met magic techniques, can then create new enchantments using the astral signature of the magician who crafted the artifact, often enchanting a pre-existing artifact of the same culture and period, which becomes the eponymous Paper Lotus of the trick. In this way, the collector can sell the Paper Lotus for much more than the actual value of the focus because of its perceived historical value.
There are many plots and variations that can include a Paper Lotus. The collector or curator might purchase or obtain a loan of the item-or even be asked to authenticate it as an authority in such finds-and then switch the original with the Paper Lotus (a staged robbery can then allow the con artists to claim insurance on the stolen goods while selling the Paper Lots and the original on the black market.) If the con artists have created a trove of such artifacts, they might salt a prospective archaeological dig with one or two of their finds so that their later “excavations” at a nearby site appear to be legitimate and can be sold openly.
No matter what the details of the scam, however, the Paper Lotus trick relies on the forgery being accepted as genuine by the buyer, and hopefully other experts, and it has rather high requirements for success. To fool arcanarchaeologists, the Paper Lotus has to match the style and materials of previous period artifacts as well as possess an astral signature associated with a known pre-Awakening enchantment-or, at the very least, appear to be of the same school and tradition (if two artifacts are dated four hundred years apart but have the same astral signature, it is almost certain one is a forgery).
The best way to assure the right style and materials is to obtain some genuine non-magical relics of the correct age, culture, and location and enchant them, but even this must be performed in such a way as to leave no residue of Sixth World techniques. Further, almost every artifact is logged and tagged, making it easy to track their sales and to authenticate them. The con artist would either have to find their own, purchase them from the black market, or attempt to disguise legitimate artifacts as their own. Even if the con artist does succeed in making the Paper Lotus, selling it can be a tricky business-many museums, collectors, and organizations would be highly suspicious of a regular supply of “pre-Awakening enchantments” from a single source, particularly if all of the astral signatures appear to be similar to existing magicians or if all the enchantments are of known types.
The difficulty and cost of finding proper materials and a suitable puissant enchanter versus the proceeds obtained from such sales combine to make the Paper Lotus a rarity in the Sixth World.
FIVE DECADES OF DISHARMONY
The early years of the Awakening were times of great stress in China. Even if the sudden and public appearance of magic confirmed the traditional beliefs of millions, thousands of those with Talent were not properly educated in the use of their gifts and had to stumble blindly and instinctively down their paths, finding their traditions and honing their skills as they went. Those who did have an inkling of what they were doing, or at least gave consistent results from the ancient Chinese magical systems, quickly gathered public acclaim and followers, and became the modern inheritors of the Wuxing tradition.
One of these first masters was Wei Xan Zexu of Hong Kong, who specialized in the conjuring of ancestral spirits. In 2020, after several years of study, he successfully summoned an ally spirit, Henshou, and bound it to inhabit his faithful servant Li Kwong, A major and well-publicized achievement at the time, this act embittered Zexu’s rivals, one of whom made a deal with an unknown free spirit to assassinate the wujen. The free spirit used its Vessel Trading power to trap the ally spirit in an oracle bone, while the free spirit itself possessed Li Kwong’s body and used it to murder Wei Xan Zexu.
Henshou, on the death of its master, became a free spirit in its own turn, but remained weak and within the oracle bone, and its True Name manifested on the back of an ancient bronze mirror said to have belonged to a Han period magician-one of many relics Zexu studied. Mirror and oracle bone were both packed up with the rest of Zexu’s possessions by his relatives, some of which were sold and others which were kept in storage.
FOR LOVE AND MONEY
It was nearly forty years after the death of Zexu, in 2058, that Xi’an Xiaoping began his career as a forger of magical artifacts. A very minor collector in the bustling Hong Kong antiquities market, Xiaoping had neither the capital nor the connections to make a name for himself. What he lacked in contacts and cash, however, he made up for in skill and knowledge: Xiaoping is a true artisan with exceptional magical skills and a thorough background in antiquities, particularly those of ancient China. To this end, Xiaoping, through some considerable effort, obtained an introduction to the Incense Master of the Red Dragon Association, and together they perfected a scheme where Xiaoping would create Paper Lotuses and fence them through the Triad, who could sell the artifacts on the international black market in exchange for helping Xiaoping obtain the materials he required to make the forgeries and help him make the proper connections so that his own business would begin to thrive.
For nearly eleven years, Xiaoping prospered under this arrangement, enjoying his wealth, reputation, and the craftsman’s pride when his own enchantments were held up as equal to those of past masters. Then he made his first mistake.
The bronze mirror of Wei Xan Zexu was part of a small lot of items that a Red Dragon fence purchased from a strung-out drug addict named Lin Che in Kowloon, and from there it made its way to Xiaoping’s shop. As an experienced initiate, Xi’an Xiaoping quickly identified the True Name engraved on the back of the mirror, but falsely assumed that it dated to the mirror’s construction around the first century B.C.E. Unwilling to anger a free spirit (if it was still around), but sniffing an opportunity, the enchanter set out to incorporate the spirit’s formula into a unique enchantment.
Many would-be counterfeiters are restricted to working in “common” focus types, as most metamagic enchantments are too new to have historical precedents, while modern enchanters are generally ignorant of the ancient magic used in pre-Awakening artifacts-lumping all such items under the catch-all category of unique enchantments. Xiaoping saw the opportunity to avoid the pitfall of relying on typical enchantments by transforming the bronze mirror into a True Vessel-which, because the item already contained a copy of the spirit formula, would not alert the spirit (if it was still extant), but which would validate the artifact.
Lin Che is the grand nephew of Wei Xan Zexu, and his sole descendant. He’s also an art student with a serious Awakened drug habit who has been fencing his family heirlooms to fuel his habit. Around three A.M. he was rooting around in the old family house when he came across the oracle bone, and was promptly possessed by Henshou (Lin Che’s astral form was displaced into the oracle bone). Henshou took a few hours to acclimate himself to the current day before returning Lin Che’s astral form to his body.
Henshou’s first priority was locating the sole copy of his spirit formula, which wasn’t very difficult: the Hong Kong Museum of History had it on display. What he saw, however, made him very unhappy. Not only was his True Name on public display, but some rat bastard enchanted the damn thing as a trap. Needless to say, Henshou was not amused-but he also wasn’t stupid. He might have been trapped in a box for fifty years, but the free spirits sees that it has enemies it must smoke out. This is a situation requiring subtlety-and pawns.%