The timeline of my unequivocal* fandom of Shadowrun:
One weekend, when I was about fourteen years old, my cousin and I rented Akira on VHS. We had two other films that we watched first and we never got to watch it together. Talking about it with a buddy at school, he highly recommended going to watch Akira that very night. So I did. And I loved it. I thought it was amazing, and it nourished a dormant science fiction seed that people like my father, my cousin, and my best friend at the time had planted in me. I didn't know anything about cyberpunk, but I was a quick study. I read my first Gibson and I was hooked.
It wasn't until the mid-90s that some of my friends had introduced me to Shadowrun. Then my cousin showed me Shadowrun, too. (To be honest, I don't know which came first, my cousin or my friends.) Regardless, I wanted to really play a game. My regular gaming group, which my cousin was part of, were heavy into D&D at the time (Ravenloft to be more specific) but they were open to playing a game or two. The mechanics were a bit off, so it never really worked out.
I also found Shadowrun for the SNES, further fueling my interest. I played that game inside-and-out, partly because I didn't have a weekly Shadowrun game running. I loved the game, the atmosphere, the music, the storyline, and I didn't even mind the fact that it hardly seemed to care about canon Shadowrun material.
Around the same time, I started going online, finding more Shadowrun information and connecting with different people. At first it was the Shadowrun Webring, later Shadowland.org and the Deep Resonance Forums (which later became Dumpshock), the latter would later spawn Bulldrek, where I really came into my own.
Third edition was released. I had been reading and collecting some Shadowrun books and since our D&D campaign was winding down, I thought it would be the right time to make a real push to play the game. Over the next ten years it was the predominant game our weekly gaming group played. I got into my own as a GM and it allowed me to indulge in my cyberpunk and RPG hobbies, while at the same time express myself creatively.
I opened a Shadowrun website of my own, first on dv8.nl and later on wiredreflexes.com, where I started collating Shadowrun information relating to my own campaign. It proved to be really popular and I got to develop a bit of a name for myself in the online Shadowrun community.
By 2008, I found myself getting a little burned out on Shadowrun. I hadn't switched over to fourth edition yet, and found that my interest in the system was almost zero, while my interest in the mixture of hardcore cyberpunk, post-humanism and neo-tech mysticism had grown, while the fantasy element that had always bothered me about Shadowrun (the clinical use of magic as well as metahumanity) was beginning to seriously get on my nerves. My games began to change a bit, focussing more on the cyber, less on the fantasy.
When the PC game was announced, I was cautiously excited. It was going to be a FPS, which I didn't think was a great idea, and when more information got released it seemed like the producers were taking a big shit on the Shadowrun core. I couldn't even be bothered to pirate the game.
I was getting more and more interested in web-development, and decided to work on a Shadowrun browser game together with my brother. Shadowrun: Corrosion became my hobby project. I ceased all other development on my website on focussed only on this browser game. A long term project that was already garnering some interest, I still work on it today.
Yesterday, I came home to find someone posted a link about Jordan Weisman, the original creator of Shadowrun and one of the driving forces behind its original producer, Fasa Corporation, who had bought back the digital rights to the Shadowrun IP. He and Harebrained Schemes were using kickstarter.com to set up a project to develop a Shadowrun computer game, asking fans to donate $400k so that the game could be made. I immediately donated $115. When I did, the ticker was set to about $45. Now, about 30 hours later, it's at $465k, well past the amount required to start development.
Adam said he was surprised that people were so surprised at the initiative taking off. I guess I was, too. Maybe not as surprised as I was excited to be part of it, to watch it gain traction and to watch them succeed with ease. I had hear him talk about kickstarter before, but I had never donated or paid too much attention to it.
I'm very excited about the game.
* When I say unequivocal, I don't really mean that. I'm not super fond of metahumanity, furry elves, immortal elves and Year of the Comet can go fuck itself. But... you know. Whatever.
Some time ago someone posted this to the cyberpunk FB group and I loved it. It's the intro sequence to a pretend Shadowrun television show and it's really very well done.
Trying to stay true to Shadowrun Third Edition as much as possible, one of the things we'd like to implement in Shadowrun: Corrosion are lifestyles, allowing you to purchase and maintaining a lifestyle that benefits your character in different ways. There's a wide spectrum of lifestyles, much like in Shadowrun and they offer an escalating amount of benefits.
Below is a small write up of each lifestyle and the basic setup of what benefits they bring.
Cost: this is the initial purchasing cost of the lifestyle.
Upkeep: this is the daily upkeep cost of the lifestyle.
Social: it's the penalty or benefits you get to social skill checks (Etiquette, Negotiations, Intimidation, etc.)
Ambush: when attacked in PvP it offers a penalty or bonus in avoiding the first, surprise/ambush round of the fight.
DocWagon: when you fall unconscious due to physical damage you are returned to Dixie's who patches you up. She takes 10% of your money and your reputation goes down and you're at 9 boxes of physical. This bonus changes things slightly.
Regeneration: regenerating lost physical health is dependent on your body rating, and can take a long, long time to heal. Regenerating lost stun health is usually quite a bit faster, but is dependent on your body or willpower, whichever is higher. This is a bonus that increases your body/willpower in terms of healing by a particular percentage.
Assets: these are money and influence generating things that a crew can purchase/conquer. Each asset has a legal owner, who gets extra benefits on top of the crew benefits. Because a character needs a solid identity to withstand government scrutiny, the higher the level of the asset, the higher the required lifestyle of the owner.
You will live on the streets -- or in the sewers, steam tunnels, condemned buildings, or whatever temporary flop you can get. Food is whatever you are able to find, bathing will be a thing of the past, and your only security is what you create for yourself. This lifestyle is the bottom of the ladder, inhabited by down-and-outers of all stripes. But life won't be all bad; it will be free!
Social: +3 (penalty)
Ambush: +3 (penalty)
DocWagon: -10% nuyen, -1 reputation
Regeneration: +0% body/willpower
Assets: character can't own assets.
Life stinks for the squatter, and most of the time so will you. You will eat low-grade nutrisoy and yeast, perhaps adding some flavors with an eyedropper. Your home will be a squatted building, perhaps fixed up a bit, possibly even converted into barracks or divided into closet-sized rooms and you'll probably share that with other squatters. Or maybe you can just rent a coffin-sized sleep tank by the night. You'll have the use of a public dataterm, when you can find one that actually works, to call or e-mail anyone, and you might be able to pick up a pirate trid station on the trid unit you found in a dumpster. The only thing worse than the squatter lifestyle is living on the streets.
Social: +2 (penalty)
Ambush: +2 (penalty)
DocWagon: -8% nuyen, -1 reputation
Regeneration: +2% body/willpower
Assets: character can't own assets.
With this lifestyle, you'll have an apartment and nobody is likely to bother you much as long as you keep the door locked and bolted. You can count on regular meals; the nutrisoy may not taste great, but at least it's hot. Power and water will be available during assigned rationing periods. Security depends on how regular your payments to the local street gangs are. When you travel, you'll ride the tube. You'll be one among the factory workers, petty crooks and other people stuck in a rut, just starting out or down on their luck.
Social: +1 (penalty)
Ambush: +1 (penalty)
DocWagon: -6% nuyen, -1 reputation
Regeneration: +4% body/willpower
Assets: character can own a level one asset.
The Middle lifestyle offers a nice house or condo with lots of comforts. If you choose this lifestyle you'll sometimes eat nutrisoy as well as higher-priced natural food, but at least the autocook has a full suite of flavour faucets. You will also have a commuter car or first-class tube pass. You will have a basic vidphone, and subscribe to a few cable channels and a local news screamsheet. This is the lifestyle of ordinary successful wage-earners or criminals.
DocWagon: -4% nuyen, 0 reputation
Regeneration: +6% body/willpower
Assets: character can own up to a level two asset.
A High lifestyle offers a roomy house or condo, good food and the technology that makes life easy. You may not have the same perks as the really big boys, but neither do you have as many people gunning for you. Your home is in a secure zone or protected by good, solid bribes to the local police contractor and gang boss. You will have a housekeeping service or enough tech to take care of most chores, and a luxury commuter car is at your beck and call. This is the life for the well-to-do on either side of the law: mid-level managers, senior Yakuza and the like.
Social: +1 (bonus)
Ambush: +2 (bonus)
DocWagon: -2% nuyen, 0 reputation
Regeneration: +8% body/willpower
Assets: character can own up to a level three asset.
This lifestyle offers the best of everything: ritzy digs, lots of high-tech toys, the best food and drink, you name it. You will have a household staff, maid service or gadgets to do the chores. You will be likely (and expected) to have a powerful car and a big house, a snazzy condo or the penthouse suite in a top hotel. Home security is top-of-the-line, with well-trained guards, astral security and instant response times. Your holophone is SOTA with all the features, multistation trideo, all satellite and cable channels, and subscriptions to several major newspapers and journals. You'll be on the VIP list at several exclusive restaurants and clubs, both real and virtual. This is the life for the high-stakes winners in the world of Shadowrun: high-level executives, government big shots, Yakuza bigwigs and the few shadowrunners who pull off the big scores (and live to spend their pay).
Social: +3 (bonus)
Ambush: no ambush possible.
DocWagon: 0% nuyen, 0 reputation
Regeneration: +10% body/willpower
Assets: character can own up to a level four asset.
Any other bonuses we can tie to lifestyles?
One of the nicest things about having a project of the magnitude that Shadowrun: Corrosion has is that, if done right, ideas spawn and ignite new ideas. We always held the idea that Player vs Player (PvP) combat should be a large part of the game, not only in order to keep the game competitive, but also because we needed a reason to play Corrosion in a browser and being exposed to other players. If there was no PvP element, the game would be a single-player game with chat options, and that wasn't good enough. The idea of PvP spawned the idea of organised PvP, which is what our end-game is going to be about. (That and resource management.) So we started on PvP, single combat first in order to set the stage for the multi-player combat and in order to give players something more to do to make money, to earn karma and to tweak their character.
We've got a rough outline for ranged PvP combat finished and it's looking good and fast, which is good since the path-finding algorithms we're using in missions leave a lot to be desired, unfortunately. Having use for pathfinding, it's fast. Immediately, we came up with another idea; ambushing. Ambushing (or surprise) is already a part of the SR3 game system, where, before the combat starts, the ambusher and ambushee both roll a reaction roll, ambusher against target number (TN) 2 and the ambushee against TN 4, to determine if the ambushee could respond. If not, then the ambusher got a free combat pass to do his worst, which, when you've got enhanced reflexes, can be lethal.
Of course, this lethality of ambushing lead us to another idea; how about we drop the TN for the surprise rolls by one for a middle lifestyle, and two for a high lifestyles, and drop the ambush all together for a luxury lifestyle? That way, there are more reasons to aim for a higher lifestyle, which in turn demands a higher daily upkeep price, which in turn keeps the economy stable and flowing.
Right now, if you're victorious, you get 1 karma if your opponent had a higher reputation than you, another karma if your opponent had a higher rank than you, your rank increases, and you get between 5-10% of the opponent's nuyen. If you weren't victorious, you get one karma if either the opponent's reputation or rank was higher, but you lose 5-10% of your nuyen to your opponent. Also, your rank will most likely go down. This concept of earning karma and making nuyen through PvP introduces some new ideas; you could self sustain on PvP, never having to do one mission if you don't want to. This means mission rewards need to be competitive in order to keep a steady influx of nuyen into the economy, otherwise players would constantly fight each other and the same nuyen would exchange hands over and over. Nuyen still needs to be spent on increasing skills, attributes and gear, so the need for missions will remain, but to keep the economy healthy we'll need to keep an eye on things.
What if you want to safeguard your money? Couldn't you put it in an offshore bank account instead of walking around with it in certified credsticks waiting for some other player to come along and rob you? Wouldn't that be a great addition to customisable lifestyles? You start out with a small bank account where you can keep money stored for a lower level lifestyle and increase the size as the quality of your lifestyle increases? Perhaps you can buy expansions to a lifestyle, increasing your bank account, increasing your security or something to that effect.
Ideas aplenty, and more and more popping up as we go along. It's a great feeling, creating something and being infused with ideas. It sure beats sitting around being lead along by someone else's idea and never having any of your own. I like it!
This comes from the suggested viewing thread. So the original post has been expanded quite a bit.
I'd have thought that there would be something like a resource for what the criminal mind and world is like in, I don't know, a book called Runner's Companion. But I would be too optimistic. After all, in twenty years Shadowrun has used the same sentence over again in its four core books to describe a shadowrunner and that is that.
So, eff it. I'll do it my damn self.
The missing ingredient in Shadowrun is crime.
See, for all of the focus on magic and technology - which in turn is at its base taken from stealing real world concepts and examples of both - and a lesser extent on the fact that Fourth Edition was designed to focus on a core story involving a group of characters who opine and act on the world around them through the collected fiction in the books, the fact of the matter is that Shadowrun is, as one person famously put it, a game where you play characters who shoot people in the face for money.
Well, it used to be anyway. Now, explaining exactly how or what the game is supposed to be (because like it or not, there has to be a default setting/premise or the thing just doesn't work) is rather difficult. It's difficult even though a book was written to specifically focus on the underworld, but it still missed the point entirely. There is a glaring hole in the work output and focus within the game on the basic element of the game - the criminal element, and the criminal character. This is a systemic omission of the game. Even when it was more true to its cyberpunk roots, crime was never really the issue. Cyberpunk wasn't about criminals. It was a science fiction subgenre that pitted the relatively powerless against the powerful using technology as a defining concept of implementing plot elements and as the end unto itself.
No doubt this is due to the writing talent for RPGs comes from fans, and right now there is no crime genre in the RPG industry which can be directed across the industry towards a game like Shadowrun, which is ostensibly a game about playing criminals. There is not shortage of fantasy and science fiction fandom within the RPG playing, and writing, community. Those elements have been played way up over the years within the game with relatively successful results. However, there seems to be no place for the crime genre fan within the current Shadowrun line, or even for much of its history to be honest, to contribute. You can look at the list of Jackpoint shadowtalkers and notice that there aren't a whole lot of professional criminals on that list. The one who most fit the role, Fatima, was killed off last year. That in a way speaks volumes about the very dearth of a focus on criminals and criminality. Riser is the other. A writer's PC turned canon NPC, he has had no prominence whatsoever in Fourth Edition to date.
So, that's the problem. There is a whole, rather exciting, fandom of the crime genre out there. But as far as it seems, none of it has any ties to RPGs, and thus none to Shadowrun. It is a staple of the mass market paperback field and has even expanded into the graphic novel and serialized comic book market through imhaprints like DC's Vertigo (and now the Vertigo Crime imprint) and Marvel's Icon imprint, which publishes the Criminal serial by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. IDW is about to publish the first graphic novel adaptation of the Parker novels by award-winning comic artist Darwyn Cooke. That said, the fictional material is out there in written form alone. Film and television have also mined the field pretty well for inspiration and outright production of content in or based upon this genre as well as its brother genre, true crime. With that in mind, this hopefully ongoing column is intended to address the very obvious lack of material on crime within Shadowrun.
The standard concept that has been used to describe Shadowrun for the last twenty years has been some variant on the cyberpunk genre combined with the fantasy genre. Well, that's just wrong. The overarching premise, the foundation of character activity, the goddamn name of the game, is CRIME. That's our genre. That's the sea that the game swims within. Now, as far as setting goes Shadowrun certainly combines elements of the cyberpunk and fantasy genres. But it's not cyberpunk. And it's not fantasy. However, I can understand the confusion, especially when you look at the game material from the first edition and the second edition until about 1994 (Which, coincidentally or not is the year Earthdawn was introduced and forcibly retconned down the throat of Shadowrun's timeline).
At that time the material was cognizant of the fundamental themes of cyberpunk literature and referenced it in part through the creation of, and the filtering of in-game material through, the Neo-Anarchists. Just as example, the first chapter of The Neo-Anarchist's Guide to North America is a Neo-Anarchist manifesto complete with a mini treatise on the economic principles of the Pareto distribution (which, ironically, has come to be a prominent economic principle as of late) and why it supported the campaign for neo-anarchism. Aside from that, the megacorporations and even the major political figures were essentially nameless, faceless brains at that head of these imposing economic and political monoliths. No one knew much about the CEOs of the Big Eight and frankly, what the fuck difference did it make? The chances of a shadowrunner encountering Richard Villiers in 2050 were nil. It wasn't going to fucking happen. Ever. Fast forward a decade and the campaign book First Run (which should tell you that it was geared towards starting characters) contained an adventure, Supernova, where starting-level runners meet Richard Villiers and his AAA megacorp's chief of security (who was another major plot character at the time), and face off against a cyberzombie (which was and remains one of the baddest motherfuckers as far as plot devices go). It almost bears repeating it's so fucking ludicrous. The starting-level runners meet Richard Villiers and his AAA megacorp's chief of security, and face off against a cyberzombie. That right there tells you all you need to know about how cyberpunk the game is.
Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction. The distinction from the sci-fi genre is that it focused on the way humanity interacts with science and technology, and in the face of its affects on people and society. It's evolved from the term made up in the 1980s into something far more encompassing than the story of a dark future where technology was a tool and an end unto itself, and in reflecting the punk asthetic and mindset created a world where technology became the great equalizer. In effect what he created was a study in man vs. technology. It's even been applied retroactively to encompass older science fiction works. But the punk part is also quite important, especially in a game like Shadowrun where the characters are members of the criminal underclass. But the punks don't simply eschew society like the criminal world that has been discussed so far. It is also subversive of the co-opted, top-down monoculture created by the corrupt and venal machinations of monolithic entities: megacorporations. This is why the shadowrunner world in the first five years was synonymous with the neo-anarchists. The megacorporations which they opposed, and fought against, reflected the corrupt right-wing, corporatist world which punk has always fought since its inception. They're fighting Mussolini's corporatism, a form of fascism that emphasized monoculture and a corrupt form of capitalism that was dominated by a coordination between the most powerful members of the state and the largest, most powerful corporations.
Those are the cyberpunks in Shadowrun. But, in case you haven't been paying attention, that doesn't reflect anything like the criminal protagonist of the crime genre. Frankly, the professional doesn't care for politics. They don't care what is sick or wrong about society that needs to be fixed or fought. The criminal, who is almost always a thief at his core, lives his own life free of ostentation. He isn't fighting society. He just doesn't want to get caught, and frankly there's no better way to draw attention to yourself than picking a fight with The Man. The thieves don't piss off The Man. The Establishment's got all the money, and if it's as corrupt a world as Shadowrun (which is actually a Dark Future setting) then there criminal syndicates integrated into the power structures of legitimate society--in which case, drawing attention to yourself and fighting the system makes you an enemy of people in your world who have no qualms about killing you, because force of violence is how "justice" (street justice, perhaps) is meted out in underworld disputes. In Shadowrun, the Japanese Yakuza are intrinsically linked with the Japanacorps and MCT in particular (They founded it) because that's how they roll IRL. But now they're spread across the globe on the coattails of the Japanacorps' global economic hegemony. Until the specific Yellow Peril concept popular in 1970s-80s fiction, the monolithic Japanese megacorporation and its Yakuza collaborators, was tossed aside around the turn of the century, this made being a cyberpunk a very dangerous, foolish enterprise for professional thieves; for shadowrunners. As the megacorp cultures diversified, so did their affiliated syndicates. And this made being a cyberpunk shadowrunner suicidal.
In the sixties, still another type of antihero evolved... the true outlaw; the professional thief and professional killer. The most successful of these characters was Parker, the laconic and coldblooded gunman... Parker and others of his type are hardly Robin Hood figures; they steal for personal gain and would ridicule (or shoot) any of their number who suggested giving all or part of the spoils to someone else. Their only redeeming quality is that they seldom steal from or kill anyone in the mainstream of society... They have a certain code and they operate within its boundaries.
- Bill Pronzini. Gun in Cheek, p. 172
It'd be nice if there was any evidence over any of the sourcebooks I have read that someone at some point read something about criminals. Sure, there's Underworld. But like I said, it reads like a research paper on criminal organizations (and then had to fill space with various cults and policlubs whose criminality was limited at best).
Let me begin by saying that the Parker novels are legendary within the crime genre. They're required reading and over the five decades that they were written have come to define many of the characteristics and archetypes of the genre, especially with regard to the Parker himself.
Westlake was such an influence on so many other writers, it's kind of like looking back at Knut Hamsun or Ernest Hemingway. So many things came from him. You go through the list of characters that are based on Parker. Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs. Robert DeNiro in Heat. The list goes on and on. Any cool thief character, you're like, "Oh, they're doing a Parker.
- Ed Brubaker. Darwyn Cooke talks about his graphic novel adaptation of "The Hunter"
The crime genre world is predicated on the existence of a systemic structure to the underworld. There are established organizations and groups, as well as people who float around unaffiliated and everyone knows and understands their place within the world. This is not normal society. It a wholesale rejection of normal society and its reliance on the Rule of Law and legal institutions. The very existence of the world is in part based upon the idea that the people within cannot trust or function within the existing order. This is certainly true when you look at the creation of immigrant organized crime syndicates that serve to police a population that is eschewed from the rest of society and puts its faith in their own organizations. Although to be honest, most come from the pursuit of power and the coalescing of power in an attempt to consolidate and expand interests that are inherently illegal. In the genre, the criminal has his own society. He interacts with normal people and society on a regular basis, but the key is that he is not and never will be normal or legitimate. That world is filled with the other two basic archetypes: marks and victims. It's the consumer base that sneaks off into the criminal's world to have a taste of the illicit. But to paraphrase Willie Sutton, it's also where the money is. This is especially true of the thieves. There's money to be had if you rob from other criminals, and that is a situation that occurs. But the big paydays would come from hitting major criminals and/or syndicates, which is like hitting the cops. You don't do it lest you incur the Wrath of God. So instead you go where the money is.Ed Brubaker knows what he's talking about, which is both due to and a reflection of his own reputation in the rapidly-growing field of crime graphic novels. The novels create a world where there are only the three character types listed in the Characters of Crime post: criminals, marks, and innocent victims. That is the heart of the story, and that is the heart of the concept of Shadowrun. Even the police are not so much characters in the stories as they are an unseen force of nature - something to be avoided at all costs lest you suffer the Wrath of God.
For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day, and worried about their bills, were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again
- Henry Hill. Goodfellas (1990)
There is an inherent disrespect and disinterest in the legitimate world. It's reinforced by keeping within their insular community, and the people around them who actually know the criminal character are either criminals themselves or willing accomplices such as family. And as such there are aspects of the world that they don't know about, deal with, or give a fuck about. Does knowing or caring about politics help them or their job? If not, who gives a fuck? You don't become a career criminal because you are acclimated to the day-to-day minutiae of society. Fuck that shit. You don't fit in, you don't care, and you certainly don't have a personal or financial stake in the general nonsense of daily life or in the bullshit normal people care about, or are supposed to care about. These are people who aren't ostentatious about their criminality because they give a fuck about the law. They try not to break the law or draw attention to themselves because it's bad for business, especially if it gets them sent to prison. The leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood can run their fiefdoms from supermax cells. The professional criminal whose trade is, at its heart, thieving and robbery cannot.
[T]he modern state is a compulsory association which organizes domination. It has been successful in seeking to monopolize the use of physical force as a means of domination within a territory.
- Max Weber. "Politics as a Vocation".
The underworld of crime fiction is in effect a rejection of the state and society and the imposition of a replacement where force is not monopolized by any single entity. It is in effect anarchic in that anyone can use force, but it is backed up the principle that anyone can use force, so keep your shit to yourself unless you can assert your dominant force. To be more blunt, don't draw shit to yourself by causing a ruckus unless you are willing and able to murder the assholes you are fucking with. When murder is the only way to keep everyone in line, there is a considerable interest in heeding and respect other individuals' interests. This in effect makes the fictional underworld almost hypercapitalist, and sometimes it's even acknowledged as such like the boardroom meeting in The Godfather. "After all, we are not communists."?
This is a conservative world in that there is a structual deference/respect for authority. In this instance it is authority that has earned its place not through law or other means but through force. So force is the dominant means of accumulating and maintaining power in the underworld. But the fact of the matter is there is a deference, especially for freelance independent thieves and other likeminded criminals like yourself, to this structure because they generally can wield a Hell of a lot more force against you than the other way around. And a lot of these individuals running the gangs and syndicates aren't just going to kill your character, but their families and everyone they know. Because they can.
What makes a professional criminal that - a professional - is largely based on the development of a mindset and a code; this is the way things are going to be, and this is how I'm going to do it. The first part is accepting that you're no longer living in normal society. You're not normal, you're a criminal. Everything that you do is a reflection of that. The way you live is predicated around the fact that you commit crimes for a living, and so every time you interact with normal people it is through this lens. Most people are random bystanders living their and are removed from you. Other people are marks for you to ply your trade against because they have something that you want, or that you can get with what they have. And some of them, actually all of them in their own way, are threats. You do everything around them not to draw attention to yourself. You're not Scarface. You're a glorified thief. Attention is poison. The more people notice, the more likely someone thinks something isn't "rightâ€? and the sooner it is that the police get involved. And the last people on Earth you want to know you exist are the fucking po. Rule Zero: DO NOT GET CAUGHT.
So you devise a code, like every other fictional criminal protagonist from Parker onward. You establish boundaries of what you will and won't do: personally, professionally, generally. You have to decide what is the extent to which you commit time and energy towards a job against a mark. You have to know how close you are with your crew and contacts, and what happens if someone crosses the line on the job or not. Everything you do, if you want to succeed for any decent length of time, must be considered and ruled upon. It is an evolving thing, but one which you need to take seriously. This is the kind of thing you spend nights ruminating upon while sitting in prison after your second collar, when you decided "Fuck the risks. This is what I am. This is what I do. This is what I will do.â€?
Parker was married, until his wife was murdered. Do you want a family? How closely can you keep them? Do you get them involved? Do you let them become involved because they're from that same world themselves? Or are you Tony Soprano? "Twenty years of marriage, I'm not going to make you an accessory after the fact.â€? Like I've said in other posts, you're living in the underworld. And some of the people against whom you may transgress have no qualms whatsoever about murdering your wife and kids along with you. Torture and other violations optional.
How do you pull a crime in public? Do you say anything? Does anyone in your crew? Are you efficient or thorough if you cannot be both? You probably ought to consider how to deal with the varying reactions people may have when you shove an M-4 in their face. Of course the giant elephant in the room is what happens if the cops arrive. There is serious merit to surrendering and pleaing down and biding your time. In Heat the haul was expected to be approximately eleven or twelve million dollars. That's motivation to do a Hell of a lot of things that twelve thousand certainly isn't worth.
Many if not most criminals around have families. There are even sociopaths - borderline or flat-out fucking psychopathic - with families. The important thing to consider is that the way these things generally work in reality and fiction is that family is important. Their family. You're playing a selfish fuck who uses force to take what he wants illegally. By that measure, the chances of you giving a fuck about anyone else - let alone their kids or family - is fucking nil. The defining characteristics of your world, your criminal society, are force and ruthless individual self-interest that would make Ayn Rand call you a cold-blooded bastard.
This is something I recently got into a discussion with here. The shadows attract and are inherently appealing to people who meet an increasing number of DSM criteria for sociopathy/psychopathy. The single most defining characteristic is the almost inhuman level of selfishness that criminals are known for or described (fictionally) as possessing combined with a lack of empathy on a scale that goes from less than normal to nonexistent.
Even a psychologically normal person thinks and works differently under these circumstances. They live in a world where the only way order is actually maintained is through the use of violence; of violent force upon another as a response to transgressions - real and imagined. That makes reactions in the real world considerably different. It's why you go loaded for bear to rob someone. If you have to shoot it out with the police, then that's the way it is. You've decided to engage and at that point all restrictions cease to be. If that means killing or maiming an innocent bystander - be they eight or eighty - then that's it. That's up to you, but it's something that is not what a normal person does. And that just reinforces the fact that you're not playing a normal person. "Normalâ€? for you is different. The rules don't apply to you, and instead the ones that do are basically the ones that don't get you killed by another criminal or, god forbid, the police.
All fences are informants
- Michael Mann. Heat, Director's Commentary (2005, based on the 1995 release)
And I couldn't help but think "And that would almost certainly make all SR fixers informants as well."
There's a reason why there are so few career criminals, and even fewer old ones. The smart ones leave as soon as they have enough to survive out of the shadows. The not so smart onesâ€¦ don't. The latter can be sunk for any number of reasons, but the biggest set of threats out there is from the people around them. The namesakes of this piece are the semi-legitimate people in your sphere of influence. They're the people who aren't thoroughly enmeshed in the underworld. Basically, everyone who isn't a professional thief (or worse) like yourself, or someone in a larger crew like a gang or syndicate. Even then people rat, but that's a relative rarity that they just walk into the FBI field office and sell out the capo. They get snagged because they trusted someone whose world only crossed into theirs. In Shadowrun terms, they trusted their contacts and their contacts sold them down the river.
The reason is simple: People in the straight world have shit to lose just for dealing with you. They're not professionals and didn't accept all of the risks that you did. By the very fact of them working with you, they can go to prison; they can lose their livelihood; they can lose everything. You know those risks and pissed on their shoes. Jail? Big fucking deal. The real Neal McCaulley (the one who inspired Heat) spent 2/3 of his life in prison. He didn't give a fuck because the rewards of the scores he did take down were worth the stretches in prison.
So the lesson here is simple, kids: Do not trust your contacts. You can do business, sure. But they are doing you no favors. They're dealing with you because they are coerced, paid, or hung out to dry. None of those incentives is typically enough for a normal person to face prison time, and if the difference is between you and them; you're going down and they walk away.
At their core, none of these men plan to do this forever. Because they know that if they make enough money to retire that there's no point in continuing to risk their lives. If you get into enough gunfights, you're eventually not going to walk away from one. To continue increases the odds that you'll either be incarcerated or killed, and that's not something you want.
So you live by your Code and within the confines of your criminal world while avoiding being noticed or caught, and maintaining that vast mental gap between you and your world and the rest of the law-abiding society. And when the opportunity comes along, you plan your jobs and do them with as few strings as possible to tie back to you or to create motivation for pursuit. And then you retire off with your loot until you accumulate enough to walk away, or until you find the next job that can get further towards the goal of not having to risk your life and freedom, even though that's what you do as part of your everyday existence. In the end the goal is to get away from both worlds and find a hardy individualistic path on your own with your collected loot.
Very few people choose to become shadowrunners. More likely, they are thrown into the life by a chaotic and uncaring world.
- Runner's Companion. P. 19
That is pure, 100% bullshit. I love how that book in particular spends so much of its first chapter ostensibly explaining who and what a runner is (and failing miserably) and laying all of the blame for people becoming runners on circumstance. What a bunch of hippie leftist nonsense. All of the events listed as being life-changing reasons that make people become runners are just that: events. There is a world of difference between being utterly betrayed or being a ten-year special ops sergeant who blew one job, and making the decision that you are no longer a normal, law-abiding person; that you are going to become a professional criminal with all the trappings and bullshit that entails.
I think I put it pretty bluntly earlier that forming said code is an intrinsic part of becoming a professional thief; a career criminal. And that long-term act is certainly conscious and purposeful. At any time along the way, your character could have bowed out. "Fuck this, I'm going to be a fry cook.â€? Even the fucking protagonist on Burn Notice still got relatively legitimate jobs while living with his mother in Miami after being hung out and left for dead by the CIA, and he was burned mid-job in Africa with a pissed-off agent ready to murder him.
And all of this is at the expense of the fact that at its core the game is about criminals. It's not complicated. You steal shit and/or shoot people in the face for money. In the beginning, middle, and end every shadowrunner is a thief. You're a face or a shooter: you still take shit that isn't yours. Shaman, street mage, whatever. You're a thief. If you're in a crew, and you're not running an alternate campaign (e.g., DocWagon crew, all that shit from the old Shadowrun Companion books) you're a fucking thief. All of this other shit is just a means to an end; tools in the toolbox.
And so the problem is (I did have a point) that there is a diminshed or nonexistent consideration of team dynamic as being a robbery/theft crew. Every Marine is a rifleman. Every shadowrunner is a thief.
This song, and the visuals of the videoclip, have been on my mind for a day or two now. I can't shake the idea of a street shaman when I see this. I hope you guys will enjoy it as much as I did.