Dreaming in Digital

Gone Fishing
Brick's background fiction

This was it. Three Special Operations teams, two days of planning, and five days of hot sim training. We were going to get our exec out.

As soon as she had been taken, the Rapid Response teams started working. First thing they had to do was figure out who the hell had taken her. Thankfully that didn’t take long. Turns out her guard detail did at least one thing right and geeked the mage of the “extraction” team before the guard detail got wiped out. We were able to recover the body, then check around to see who he had been running with. The right greased palms got us the information we needed — a team of five (now four) runners who went by the colorful name of 3p3nd4bl3z.. whatever the hell that means.

My five-man team was on site. The 3p3nd4bl3z had a safe house in a mid-height office building out in Federal, just south of the city. A nice, quiet, out of the way place which was great for them and perfect for us. With it being the tallest building in the near area we were able to work out a plan for a tethered pick up that some egghead coined “Fishing Trip”. We used the information obtained by one of the other teams to get on the roof without alerting security.

Havoc Four, my dutiful sniper, was on a building half a klick away and would be providing last minute intel on the Runners and our “fish” thanks to a SOTA scope. Havoc Two, a cigar-smoking engineer in a previous life, would remain on the roof watching the hardware and making sure the airlift came in right. While I and Havocs Three and Five, better known as the rough-and-tumble brothers Pick-up and Droze, were geared up to make entry and extraction of our Exec.

Once my team was in position, we got an update from Havoc Four about enemy positions: two runners on the sofa watching a Trid, while the other two were asleep in one of the bedrooms. Our exec was huddled in the corner of the den opposite the Trid. The 3p3nd4bl3z safehouse was three floors below us so our plan was to use pre-measured repelling gear and some kind of sold fuel thruster to throw us out to the end of our lines as we fell. The eggheads mathed it out so that we would swing right in through the floor to ceiling windows of our target location in one motion. Modified shotgun rounds would be used to shatter the glass so that we didn’t splatter ourselves against the bullet resistant material.

I called the green light and our air asset, the stealth tilt-rotor that would be our Fishing Pole, gave us a two minute window till pickup. After five days of constant practice I knew we could get in and out in forty five seconds. I made one last check of my sidearm and made sure I had easy access to the Sim chip. If I fumbled that then this whole extraction would be a bust.

At the forty-six mark the three of us took off running and threw ourselves off the edge of the building and fired the thruster packs. Felt like a kick in the back from a troll adept. Our gear worked perfectly and the thruster pack pushed us out to the end of the lines while spinning us around so we were facing the building. Pick-up and Droze raised their weapons and double tapped the window with our breaker rounds. We busted in at the same time, shoulder to shoulder. Three and Five’s harness lines automatically detached as they started putting lead into the two now-dead slots on the sofa. The first two targets dealt with, they deployed their collapsible two-meter tower shields to give us cover from the doorway leading to the bedroom where the other two runners were just waking up.

Meanwhile I shouted a code phrase at the exec. and as soon as she acknowledged it I passed her the Sim chip while preparing my gear. This exec was frosty. She kept her cool and smoothly slotted the Sim chip. I could tell when the implanted instructions and commands took over because she ran over to Pick-up and Droze, who were standing shoulder to shoulder behind their shields by this point, then turned her back to me. I stepped up close behind her and went quickly attached the five-point harness. She straightened and grabbed the rope lead at her waist and unspooled it to connect to the back harness on Pick-up as I connected the last strap to her waist belt. In unison, Pick-up attached the lead at his waist to the back of Droze’s harness.

At this point I could tell her Sim chip had run its course as she started to shake with adrenaline.

I checked the time on my Image Link — ten seconds till Fishing Pole makes contact with the wire suspended from the helium balloon and we all get dragged out like a magician pulling a stream of tied handkerchiefs out of his coat pocket. I head a commotion down the hall as the last two runners got their acts together and headed towards the common room. At best they would be able to get one, maybe two shots off before we got pulled away. We would have to trust in the shields we were taking cover behind.

Pick-up and Droze opened up with their HK223s to greet the two ‘runners with a hollow-point greeting. The brief sound of a cable being dragged across the ground behind us was music to my ears over the chatter of the HKs. We were almost out. The Exec asked me if this was going to hurt. I gave her a wry smile and said, "Like a Freight Train ma’am.” I wrapped her tightly in my arms and braced my head against her neck to protect her from the massive jolt. The Sim writers must have been of the opinion that making it worse during training would mean things go better during live fire, because it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. Regardless, it still felt like that same troll from before, this time catching me on the rebound and with a tag partner to help. The cable made a harmonic ringing sound as it was pulled taut by the tilt-wing plane snatching it from above. All four of us got yanked out of the room in some weird mirror image of an old static line parachute drop. First me and the Exec, then Pick-up and finally Droze.

Watching the sim footage after all the dust settled I can’t decide if the damn runner was just that good, or the luckiest bastard in the world. Pick-up and Droze were pulled out of the room just as planned, but a stray round from the runners nicked the cable between the Exec and Pick-up. As we were getting winched into the loading bay about halfway there the cable gave up the ghost and snapped. Pick-up and Droze fell over a thousand feet to the concrete below. We got Permanent Senior Undersecretary Sansha Krenshaw out, but it cost us two good men to a one in a trillion shot.

Saturday Night Special
The Pre-Hangover Run

The car pulled up to Kaitō’s block right as the clock hit 2200; Collateral was right on time. The runner opened the passenger door and hopped in, checking his gun’s snugness in its hidden holster. The wheelman glanced over at him, shifting gears to throw the infiltrator back into his seat. “V-Tec just kicked in,” he said with a smirk.

Kaitō worked to mask his discomfort. This was his first run with a member of the Shattered Link, and he hoped to make a good impression. When Collateral called this morning asking him to ride shotgun, he was duty-bound to offer his help; regardless of that, though, he would have done so in a heartbeat. Though he was best-equipped for covert B&E-type jobs, every now and then the infiltrator liked to get his hands dirty. Their ‘run to the barrens tonight promised just enough to keep him interested, in that regard.

As they swung hard around a turn onto the 405, Collateral gave Kaitō a grin. A small group of bikers were coming up fast behind them, the engines on their souped-up crotch-rockets buzzing like a swarm of angry hornets. “Ready to hit Redmond?”

Kaitō nodded and held on as Collateral made the Eurocar dance. He downshifted and slammed on the brakes, spinning the car around while catching two unfortunates with the front and rear fenders. Completing the spin, Collateral quickly ramped through three gears as the turbocharged Eurocar took them well ahead of the remaining bikers, who had conveniently dismounted to see to their de-biked brethren.

He grinned at Kaitō. “Are you having fun? I know I am.”

The infiltrator reluctantly let go of the handle above the door; it was grooved where his hand had dug into it. “You could call it that.”

They exited the 405 without further incident, rolling into the Redmond Barrens. The car most definitely stood out; less because it was a Westwind and more because it had all four wheels. Collateral went over the plan one last time on their way to the target.

“You got it straight?”

“Walk into an orc-ganger bar, find the biggest one in there, yank his chain, and make sure they see this,” Kaitō said, gesturing to the green stylized A pinned on his leather jacket. “Also, don’t get geeked.”

“I knew we picked you up for something.”

They rolled up to the bar and Kaitō stepped out, his hood pulled down low over his shock of black hair. “Keep it running, I’ll only be a minute.”

As Kaitō walked in, he was relieved to see their contact’s info was legit. There were only a handful of orcs drinking in here, with a troll bartender; the rest of the gang was off fighting a turf war with a splinter-group of Ancients. “Which of you trogs is Bart?”

Immediately, five occupants of the bar swung their heads toward the elf “Who the fuck you callin’ a trog, keeb?” said a sixth, standing up from a game of cards.

He was obviously a Changeling; there weren’t too many blue orks. Also apparent was the gold Aztec talisman Collateral had been hired to bring back to his Mr. Johnson. Kaitō left the question unanswered, instead rushing the big ork by vaulting the card table and placing a solid roundhouse to the side of his head. Sand scoured Bart’s face, leaving unhealthy-looking purple abrasions. Before he could even retaliate, the elf followed it up with a second kick, this time square to the jaw. The ork fell limp to the ground, his gun half-drawn. The five remaining orks hadn’t even cleared their seats before Kaitō hopped off the table and rode their fallen leader to the ground, snatching the necklace from him. He straightened his jacket, flashed them his Ancient’s logo, and was out the door with a hail of gunfire following him. A round skipped off Kaitō’s armored bicep, plinking Collateral’s car.

As Kaitō hopped into the car, the wheelman gunned it, leaving a couple hundred meters of burnt rubber outside the bar. “Dammit man, be more careful! Those assholes almost punched a hole in my baby!”

“I’m sure you can afford to patch it with the cash from this,” he replied, dangling the Aztec talisman from his hand.

“Not bad for a few hours’ work,” Collateral replied, a grin slowly spreading across his face. “You know, I thought you had it sideways, based on the way they were spraying out the door.”

“Oh ye of little faith.”

“すみません. Make it up to you with a drink?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Garage Encounter from Kaitō's POV

Kaitō spotted the garage as he rounded the corner, just as his mapsoft said he would. He patted his hidden gun in its holster subconsciously and started off toward the single open bay in the mechanic’s shop.

“I see it,” he said over his subvocal mic. He received affirmatives from the two other members of his team, the rigger Ghost and their hacker 8-bit. This was it; their merry chase around Tacoma had come to a close as they narrowed down their quarry to this garage. Scoping out the front of the building for a few minutes, Kaitō saw no one enter or exit; the open bay in the middle of the 3-door garage was the only visible means of entrance. “I’m going in.”

“Need cover?” Ghost asked, hovering above the street in her Dragonfly, based on the visual feed Kaitō was streaming from her.

“No, I should be fine. I’m just going in to talk nicely. And if they don’t answer, maybe not-nicely.”

As he crossed the threshold of the door, he had the distinct feeling something bad was about to happen. Turning to look behind him, he was thrown across the garage by an exploding air-compressor near the door, landing hard on his shoulder and rolling before he came to a stop flat on his ass. The sound of a shotgun feeding a round into the chamber was the first sound he could identify after shaking off the shock of being thrown five meters from the door.

“Don’t move, keeb,” said the vat-job Kaitō could only assume was Ed, the man the shop was registered to, and who he’d come to find. “Take your gun out, slowly, and toss it over here.” He complied, pulling Claire out from his shoulder holster and gingerly tossing it to the vat-job, cringing at the sound of the gun clanking off the metal grating surrounding a lift. “Any more of them?”

Kaitō shook his head, praying to Kannon that Ed didn’t notice the hold-out gun up his sleeve.

He then prayed to Ghost, who had a better record of helping out. “15 seconds,” she replied.

Ed backed away, kicking Kaitō’s gun further into the garage. This also put him well within sight of the open door.

A sudden blur shot through the door, catching both their attentions, followed by a burst of gunfire as one of Ghost’s drones riddled the vat-job with stick-n-shock rounds. Ignoring the newest thread, Ed spun and cracked a shot off at his prisoner, catching him full in the chest with the blast. It was only his infiltration suit that saved Kaitō, absorbing much of the blast around his upper chest, but not all of it. He was clearly bleeding between the plates of his armor.

Fuck, that hurt. It wasn’t the first time he’d taken a shot, but he normally had more of a chance to roll with it. Centering himself, he watched as Ed lined up another shot at him, this time flipping himself backward and onto his feet, avoiding the blast by half a hand’s width. He winced at the pain, only to watch Ed take another burst to the chest, collapsing in a heap as a second assailant peppered the drone with assault-rifle fire from across the garage. Kaitō could her GlaDOS shouting encouragement to HAL as he shifted his fire from Ed to the newest attacker who was now hunkering down behind cover.

Kaitō twitched his arm, the hold-out pistol from his forearm holster sliding into his right hand. He winced as the motion shifting his bruised and battered side. Attempting to activate his cloak, he was disappointed to find his outline only partially-gone, instead also limned in a green glow as he stood over Ed’s prostrate body.

“Don’t!” the attacker with the assault rifle yelled from his covered position. “Don’t kill Ed! This shit ain’t worth any of us getting geeked over.”

Holding his aim at Ed’s head, Kaitō called back, “Where’s the cabinet?”

“We’ve got it hidden. I’ll take you to it. Just don’t kill Ed.”

Just then, a third voice broadcast over a local signal. “Shit man, what the fuck is that? I’m done here, I’m fucking done.”

Kaitō smiled to himself. “8-bit, what’d you do to their hacker?”

“Nothing, yet. Mind if I hide in your commlink? Thanks.” The immersed hacker disappeared into Kaitō’s node.
Brief highlights from Session 1
with the first run not quite in the books

There’s a hurricane barreling in towards the city, so there’s no real time for an extensive post-game wrap. However, I did want to record some of the fantastically memorable moments from the game.

The team’s rigger, Madalynn “Ghost” Hughes, suffered too much feedback from a firefight and went unconscious. The team had to abandon their getaway and take to the alleys. The wealthy Sirene called for a car to meet them. Unbeknownst to the team, Ghost has a DocWagon contract. When the car met the team for the pickup, an armored DocWagon truck slammed into the back of the sedan, sending it several car lengths down the block. The armed extraction team snatched Ghost before anyone could protest and left before anyone knew what the hell was going on. The poor, unsuspecting driver of the sedan exited the car, stunned and befuddled. Kaitō approached him, shook his hand and declared, “Congratulations. You’ve just been DocWagoned.”

When questioning a down-on-his-luck dive bar owner about the contents of a disk containing the team’s coveted paydata, Sirene asked her spirit compantion Agrippa to assense the man’s aura and see if he was being truthful. “Doesn’t look like he’s hiding anything to me. Also, he has herpes.”

As the team scurried through dank alleys in between buildings as they fled the scene of a shootout, a Knight Errant rotodrone tailed the group and kept a spotlight and a camera on them. Eight Bit got bold and declared he would hack the drone. After rolling all successes on an Edged hacking roll, the drone confused his exploit account for a genuine KE officer’s account. Over the loudspeaker, its repetitious warning changed to a friendly tone. “Good morning, officer P?@W3d0a(&*&^. What would you like me to do?”

Eight Bit, a little shocked, replied, “Return to base.”

“Roger that, sir. Thank you for your service today.”

As the rotodrone spun off into the distance, the team stared at it, stunned. Kaitō turned to his hacker’s AR icon. “…Did that just happen?”


On the Eve of Genesis
after a month of prep, the game is nearly ready

Despite hectic work schedules, conventions and home repair disasters, Dreaming in Digital is on schedule to being its first session tomorrow. I can’t speak for any of the PCs but I’m ready to blow this thing away. We’ve polished characters, injected more content and brought in more tools to help this game get started on the right foot.

Our cast is,
Eight Bit- a fully-VR, well-connected hacker.
Ghost- a drone rigger with a unique history.
Kaito- former corpsec specialist turned runner after Crash 2.0.
Nabukii- an unpredictable elven mage.
Sirene- the charismatic and influential dryad rocker.

Even though I’ve created concepts for no less than eight run ideas, I’ve decided to start with a pre-made Shadowrun adventure. Only Ghost and Sirene’s players are experienced SR4a players and I’ve never run SR4a myself, so starting with something tried and proven seems like a sound idea. It’s On the Run, as described there in the link. Its big hook involves Goblin Rock, which Sirene in particular will have a unique interest in. With the serendipitous coincidence between the hook and one of my PCs, I just couldn’t pass it up.

In the downtime before the game I’ve also gotten to know Roll20 fairly well. It’s got enough mapmaking tools to allow me to use the maps in the adventure without having to go to a printing press or do cartwheels in Adobe CS to make it usable online. It’s got a built-in video conferencing feature, which lets Eight Bit connect from afar without having to loop in a second software product.

A trip to GenCon last week allowed me to land some sweet Shadowrun swag to use for the game. A series of adventures they use at the convention (collectively known as Elven Blood), full-color flash cards with vehicles, drones and weapons, some awesome Shadowrun dice (d6 with the S logo on the six face) and my personal favorite, a DocWagon t-shirt.

My major snag so far has been a home repair disaster. My house’s main AC unit decided to dump a few dozen gallons of water into the wall and onto the floor, so my game room is trashed for the moment. A last minute change of venue to Kaitō‘s player’s apartment solves that though.

I’ve still got a few notes to take today before the big splash tomorrow, but, with a portable AC going behind me I can get it done. Assuming I don’t get sucked into MineCraft or Mass Effect 3 in the interim.


Characters finalize
Arc ideas begin to form around the PCs

Diligent work on characters continues by all players. Stats and 20 questions are pretty much done all around the board. At this stage, players are fleshing out contacts—bios, descriptions, relationships, and the ever-entertaining hunt for decent pictures. Players who have done as much as they can add more flavor to the game by further fleshing out their contacts, their enemies and backup characters with full stats. We haven’t started playing yet, and there’s a lot of content for this game already. One of my primary goals for any GM/storytelling role is immersion. A large part of that is breathing life into all the characters the PCs interact with. So far, the players have created this immersion for themselves. Collective storytelling is really something to behold.

Our cast hasn’t changed, but we’ve picked up a new player to help round out the group in case anyone is missing on any particular day. I like to keep my PC groups at 4 players normally, but life happens and as often happens, someone can’t show up. So, in the interest of maintaining game continuity, I’ve invited one more. She’s in the middle of moving so she won’t have a character concepted for a little while, but I don’t think that will take much longer. And hopefully it won’t hinder the plans for the game, which are beginning to percolate in the back of my mind.

The themes of transhumanism and distorted reality will still play a prominent role in the ongoing story being told. All stories need an antagonist, though, and that’s something I was hoping the players would help me define. With the first four characters basically done, I how have that idea starting for form. In any given Shadowrun game, the PCs are “deniable assets”, fire-and-forget covert ops for corporations and other powerful agencies to use against one another. In our group, two characters have a strong motivation to oppose corporate power written into their backgrounds, while a third is naturally a good-hearted person who would look after the small people of the world anyway. With those motivations in play, I may turn this group into a more altruistic team, one who takes jobs as much for the money as for the idea of helping push back against corporate power.

From here, I get to start figuring out larger arcs, and then I can begin planning out individual runs. Hopefully, maybe on the other side of GenCon, we’ll get this thing rolling.


Characters Form
Player interest spawns interesting concepts

Two weeks since the inception of the game and corresponding invitations were sent out, the four assembled players have delved deeply into chargen. Content is not lacking. The ideas are myriad and unique. Some are brand new; others are callbacks to previous campaigns and characters some of us can’t quite let go of. Sometimes a concept grabs you and sticks with you, and there’s no shaking it.

Nathan was first. His is a new take with a new background on a previous concept—a Dronomancer. In the world of Technomancy, there are what are called “Resonance Streams”. They are roughly equivalent to Hermetic Traditions for mages. Each Stream has its own focus, its specific Sprites it can compile, and its own drain attribute. Dronomancers are Technomancers that have a specific connection to drones and the Sprites that they compile to inhabit them. Nathan’s focus on Sprite compiling and registering means he lacks hacking skills, which is okay. It’s a different twist on the core concept of what a Technomancer is, and that’s why I like it.

Chris settled on his character next. Though he hasn’t submitted 20 Questions or a sheet yet, in a way he doesn’t have to. I know his character well, because I built it myself. Sirene was originally just an experiment in building a social Adept and applying SR4’s exhaustive list of social-related adept powers to the classic Shadowrun Rocker archetype. Rockers were the original Faces. Sirene’s blend of old-school charm and SR4’s deep exploration of the Adept concept makes her stand out. I gave her to Chris in our previous campaign where we were both players. He didn’t get much of a chance to flesh her out as the game ended soon after, so I’m really glad to see him breathe new life into her.

Eric is new to Shadowrun but in the last week he’s been stricken with the same fever Nathan and I have had for years. The system’s immersive flavor and deep granularity is addicting for micromanagers like us. He’s gone through at least half a dozen character concepts, though the one he’s settled on is a solid pick. The infiltration specialist is a valuable addition to any team, but I’m especially fond of any build done with an Adept. He’s chosen the Invisible Way for a ninja-esque blend stealth and unarmed combat. He’s also got a corp background, which makes for great GM tools when it comes to constructing adversaries for the Shadowrunners.

Andrew’s the straggler in the group, but understandably so. I invited him while he was moving out of state. When I mentioned running Shadowrun he expressed both great affection for the setting and great disappointment that he wouldn’t be around to play. So, I’m going to try to solve that problem. SR4 includes two solid options for tele-play: the AI and the Full Immersion lifestyle. He’s gone with the second. His 20 questions are finished, and his concept is out of the box for a full immersion character. The easiest way to involve a tele-character is to make him a hacker. I encouraged him to think out of the box, though, and he did. His concept is a well-networked man, sort of a Fixer but on the Runner side of things. So he’ll be a social character, but not necessarily the charismatic face, like Sirene. It’ll be a challenge to incorporate him into the game nonetheless, but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.


an idea begins to form

The one truth I cannot refute is that I love to tell a story.

Many years ago, I had hung up my GM hat. After being ever the gamemaster and never the player for near the entirety of my teens and twenties, I’d decided that I wanted to play. GMing properly was hard work- map preparations, authoring background fiction, developing deep NPCs with motives, creating baddies with proper challenges and more were time-consuming to say the least. At some point I simply decided that the effort put into the game did not equal the payout I received. So, for the last 8 years or so, I was either a player or, more commonly, I simply didn’t have a game at all.

The eruption of gaming in the local community in the last year (thanks to new life being breathed into the local community by two good gaming stores) brought lots of new opportunities for me to participate in regular roleplaying. One of my groups hit a stumble soon after initiating its regular game, and the group’s GM handed me the Fireborn book with a not-so-subtle suggestion that I try my hand at GMing while the group went through its tribulations.

Since then, I’ve rediscovered my affection for telling a story. Now, much older and more mature, I’m hoping to take up the reins again as a full-time GM with one of my favorite settings, Shadowrun. Assembling the group and getting some character concepts set is step 1. Step 2 will be crafting a campaign setting around them, based on their input. Instead of winging it, as I used to do in my GMing days of old, this time I plan to have a long-term goal of creating a setting and fleshing its details out fully before starting a game. The more preparation I can do in one block months ahead of time, the less time I’ll have to spend week to week getting each game done on the fly.

What I hope to create, with not only my developed sensibilities but with all the digital tools available to me in today’s information age, is an immersive and emotionally significant experience for a core group of passionate players.



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