Once upon a time (December 2016), I had a dream of running a one-hour role-playing game every week for my friends at work. We settled on Shadowrun — one of guys slated to play is a big cyberpunk fan, but had never played Shadowrun — and I set to work on the non-Seattle setting and plot. We knew that between holidays and end-of-the-year time off requests there was no way we’d play before January. Still, I’m an eager beaver and started writing.
We met once in January and tried to make characters. One of the guys had never played a role-playing game before and since Shadowrun is a pretty crunchy game, I might not have handled his questions very well. We also hit hour one-hour time limit really quickly. Still, despite a shaky start, I was determined to run this game.
Then I got a promotion… And started missing our regular lunch games. I promised myself I’d get back to it but as the weeks ticked by I’ve come to realize this dream is dead in the water.
Not being the kind of person content with sitting on content, I’m going to publish my Shadowrun game notes here. Maybe some of you can pick up this ball and run with it.
Welcome to the Ville
The Ville is a gutter of the St. Louis Sprawl. Prior to the U.S. Civil Rights movement, legal restrictions prevented African-Americans from finding housing in St. Louis. As a result, the African-American population became heavily concentrated in the Ville. The neighborhood became home several cultural institutions, including Sumner High School, the first high school for black students west of the Mississippi River, and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, one of the few black teaching hospitals in the U.S.
Following The Awakening, the Ville saw a similar experience for the metahuman population. Again legal restrictions prevents Dwarves, Orks, and Trolls from living in most areas of the ever-growing St. Louis Sprawl. While measures were taken to open restrictions in the United Canadian and American States, the Confederation of American States still carries significant prejudice against metahumans which force numerous metahumans across the border. Once again, the Ville has become home to a disenfranchised population.
As such, The Ville has grown into a hotspot for recruiting young, naive, and eager Shadowrunners. Corporations have been eager to exploit the desperate population, most of whom are eager to take anyway out of the gutters. Suits can often be found in the reception of the Comprehensive Health Center, preying on anyone with a gunshot or knife wound. There is also always the bevy of Mr. Johnsons to be found in the Tap Room, a rundown bar on the southeast edge of the Ville, ready to help a wannabe Runner sign their first contract. While there are no shortage of people offering opportunities to escape The Ville, the most common way out is still via the DocWagon Central West End morgue.
A couple notes before we get started. Characters create for Gateways are considered “Street Level” and apply the changes to character creation as presented on p.64 of the Core Rulebook. Any corrections needed are already accounted for in this document.
In addition, all characters must be:
- From the Ville — The gutter neighborhood detailed on the back of this page
- Young — Humans: 16-18, Dwarves: 17-19, Elves: 20-24, Orks & Trolls: 11-15
- Inexperienced — Having never done a Run in their life
- Desperate — Willing to burn any bridge to get a better life
- Only Acquaintances — The characters may know of each other but nothing more.
While I’m not putting any restrictions on what you can play, there are a few character types that require some extra work. Players interested in playing any of the below should work with the Game Master ahead of time to ensure everyone has a solid understanding on the rules:
- Deckers — The Matrix: pg. 214-249
- Technomancers — The Matrix: pg. 249 -258
- Riggers — Riggers: pg. 264 – 270
- Mages — Magic: pg. 276 – 325
- Shaman — Magic: pg. 276 – 325
Game Master Notes
At game start the three character don’t know each other personally. Living in the same area means they are familiar with each other, but they’re not friends. They are each approached by the same Mr. Johnson for a Milk Run — a quick and easy run to make some fast cash or prove your value — to deliver a package to a Stuffer Shack. All three Shacks are downtown locations; #8232, #8235, & #8291. The Johnson explains that this is a test run and if these wide-eyed youngsters can’t handle a simple dead drop there won’t ever be future work for them. After the drop they are instructed to go to the Greater Ville Community Center and await their payment; 1,000¥.
The packages are bombs, set to detonate at the same time, and act as a distraction for another run by more experienced Runners. The players are being treated as disposable assets; ones that the Johnson immediately gives over to Lone Star to further the distraction. The main run is against the Aztechnology St. Louis Branch, scoring prototype data for the next season of NERPS (New Exciting Retail ProductS.)
Even if the players check the packages and don’t make the delivery the Johnson turns them over to Lone Star. If the players wait in the community center Lone Star shows up to arrest them. If not, Lone Star shows up at their homes. From there, their actions are their own. If they are arrested, Lone Star will process them before Aztechnology steps in to recruit them. If they go on the run, Aztechnology will catch them and attempt to recruit them. If they decide to band together and strike back at the Johnson who set them up, Aztechnology will hang back and let the gutter slime sort each other out before swooping in to retrieve their data from the survivors.
If the players are recruited by Aztechnology they will learn that the Corp knows they were fall guys for another team. Aztechnology wants the Johnson and the Runners that stole their prototype data. They will equip the players to accomplish their needs and, should things go smoothly, may offer then a Consultant position on their payroll. Of course, once this run is done then Aztechnology has no use for them and they will quickly find themselves right back in the Ville.
Act 1: A Way Out
The players are down and out in the Ville when the door to Running opens for them.
Scene 1: Opportunity
Approached by a Johnson for the Stuffer Drop.
Scene 2: The Drop
Each character makes their way to their designated Shack and plants the package.
Scene 3: Lone Star Assault
While waiting for their contact, Lone Star shows up to arrest the players.
Scene One: Opportunity
[This opening scene is “unique” for each player, but unfolds the same.]
Things are pretty bad in the Ville. Two neighboring gangs, the Twelve Hammers and Chrome Barons, have been using the Ville as a war ground and blood is spilling by the quart. Just last week the Gorgeous Gents Social Club was lit up and that place had been neutral ground for as long as anyone could remember. The worse part? None of this is new. There are always Sprawl Gang beefs and neutral grounds getting shot up. That’s life in the Ville.
[Ask the players to describe a scene in the last week when things got really bad. Was this the breaking point that made them want to reach out to a Johnson for work? Or have they dreamed of being a Runner?]
It’s no surprise you ended up in the Tap Room sitting across from Mr. Johnson. Everyone knows that’s not his real name, it’s the pseudonym given out by just about every Shadowrun handler. If you want to Run, talk to Mr. Johnson. This one is an older human, you’d put his age somewhere in his mid-forties, with deep-set gray eyes, medium-length amber hair, cream colored skin, and a wide chin. His suit does little to mask his physique, he’s clearly a gym rat.
[This particular Johnson’s real name is Antonio Wynn. He’s 42 years old and Human.]
He didn’t have work for you, but he wrote down your Comm. Said he’d contact you if he saw anything that “fit your skills”. It was a blow off, but it was a polite blow off. You didn’t expect to hear from him, so you were surprised when your AR lit up with an arrow from the Tap Room.
The meeting was brief. One of his regular crews took a hit and he’s in the market for new talent. Of course, he’s not taking in wet behind the ears kids. Luckily, he has a Milk Run — a quick and easy run to make fast cash or prove value — for you to take. A package needs to be dropped at a Stuffer Shack tonight. Another team will come in the morning to pick it up. The player is to take a box to one of three Stuffer Shacks and place it on the island by the dispenser bar and the CIY (Cook-It-Yourself) station. They need to make sure no one sees them but cameras shouldn’t be a problem. Most Shack Managers don’t review tapes, plus the package won’t be in play for more than 12 hours.
For a couple hours work the Johnson will pay 1,000¥, a third of what a this kind of run would net an experienced Runner. Johnson explains that this is a test run and if you can’t handle a dead drop there won’t be future work. After the drop they go to the Greater Ville Community Center to await payment.
[Assuming each player accepts the job, if they don’t there is no game for them, assign each one a unique Shack to deliver their package to.]
All three Shacks are downtown locations;
- #8232: Corner of Pine St. and N. 6th St.
- #8235: Just off I-44 and Morgan St.
- #8291: Off Washington Ave. between N. 15th St. and N 14th St.
Scene Two: The Drop
[Scene Two is similar to scene one, each is a separate scene with common elements. There is more that can go unique for the players this time. Start by having everyone roll 1d6 to determine the complication to their run.]
[Complication #6: Everything goes as planned! Congrats on arbitrarily rolling “well.”]
Each Stuffer Shack is the same, inside and out, so no matter what city you find yourself in the Shack is familiar. There are four pre-approved exteriors to account for restrictions based on physical location but, thanks to a massive remodel effort in 2050, the interiors are identical.
[Complication #1: However, this Shack has a unique sign in the window proudly declaring “New Management!” Which means this shack actually has someone in charge that gives a damn. On top of making the drop, the player will need to ensure there is no video surveillance footage of the drop.]
[Check with the players on how they wish to proceed. Those going in the front door continue to the next paragraph. Those finding another way in will need to be improvised.]
Roll 1d6 per location to determine the Metahuman race of the Shack Clerk:
- Ork 2. Ork 3. Dwarf 4. Troll 5. Elf 6.Human
As you step through the doors your skin is assaulted with harsh climate controlled air. While the staleness of the air is restricting it’s barely making an impact on the summer heat.
[Complication #2: That’s when you realize you have a problem. This is a pre-2050 shop, prior to the massive user improvement remodel. This means the dispenser bar is across from the counter, so the clerk will be looking right at you as you make the drop. You might be able to count on the Shack’s famously lazy employees, but if they even glance at you while you messing with the island the whole run could be compromised.]
[Complication #3: You glance at the counter, expecting to hear the tried recitation of the official Stuffer Shack greeting, but notice the clerk isn’t there. Instead you hear a voice call out, “I’ll be right there, chummer! Just restocking the bar! Don’t touch nothing, we got cameras!” As you step past the counter you see the [race] pulling cups from the supply island and stocking up the drink dispensers. Skip the next paragraph.]
Behind the counter a bored looking [race] barely glances up at you and chimes, “Welcome to Stuffer Shack. Snacks are Aisle 15, Snack substitutes Aisle 18. Today’s special is two Synthmeat Dogs for the price of one. Thank you for making Stuffer Shack your one-stop shop today.” The greeting is rehearsed and today’s special has been the same for the last two years, but there is still something welcoming about a routine greeting.
[Complication #4: As you walk past the counter you notice that aisles 9 & 10 are closed off with orange cones and yellow caution tape. A floor sign right outside the aisle reads, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience but this section is currently closed for inventory.” You’re pretty sure that the aisles are inventoried before any other part of the story, which means that anything you drop at the dispenser bar will be discovered when the store inventories that area.]
Just past the counter is the cheap electronics section followed by the dispenser bar. The counters help obscure any customers getting drinks from the clerk, a strange feature designed to help create a sense of privacy.
[Complication #5: That false sense of privacy is being exploited right now but a father and son who are getting food… slowly. As soon as the boy sees you he smiles, “Hiya, mister!” The dad tries to nudge the boy quiet but the child doesn’t get the hint. You’ll need to either wait for these two to scram, or encourage their speedy departure.]
The dispenser bar and CIY stations form a C shape around a free-standing island used to store supplies. A big sign on the island declares, “Today Only: Dispenser drinks only 1¥!”, except the dust on the sign suggests it’s not just today only.
[It’s improve time! Answer the player’s questions and see how they handle the drop.]
Scene Three: Lone Star Assault
[This is the first scene where the players meet each other. Make a quick initiative check to determine entrance order.]
With the drop complete you head back to the Ville, specifically to the Greater Ville Community Center to await payment. The Community Center started as a convent and following its first remodel in 1973 became the community center that still stands today. Over the years there have been eight more remodeling efforts (1977, 1986, 2003, 2012, 2041, 2048, 2067, and 2071) but it still carries the scars from a hundred years of operation.
When you arrive at the front door you notice a sign saying the center is closed to the public today. It seems that someone has rented out the entire place for a meeting. You swipe the card Mr. Johnson gave you and after a second the door clicks open for you.
[If the players poke around they find most of the internal doors locked. They don’t have access to the office, kitchens, stages, senior areas, or the store rooms. The foyer, main hall, and restrooms are their only options.]
Initiative #1: As you head inside you hear the lights wheezing to life and after a second the main hall is illuminated. It’s clear you’re the first one here.
Initiative #2: You step into the foyer and notice there are lights on in the main hall. A single figure sits waiting at one of the tables. You recognize his face, and possibly his name, but its not anyone you’ve spoken with before.
[Prompt the two players to describe their characters.]
Initiative #3: You push into the center only to find two other guys, faces you recognize from around the Ville, sitting around. They both glance over at the door when they hear the lock pop.
[Prompt the third player to describe his character. Then let them wait. There is nothing to do now but wait for their contact to show up with payment.]
While waiting for their contact, Lone Star shows up to arrest the players.