Escape rooms! Investigations! Cons! Reunions! Pure excellence!
Welcome back to the session recaps from our Shadowrun campaign! We’re playing 5E, a bit house-ruled, as our campaign is set in 2053 (in Chicago, for better or worse), and some of the things, like Matrix rules, had to be reworked. Our GM is the amazing Jakub from Project Aphelion whom you can follow in his GM glory on Twitter.
In the last episode, our intrepid band of criminals, described properly here, stole a rare flower from the middle on the Amazonian jungle, annoying Ehran the Scribe just a tiny bit more, and got back to Chicago, their hometown.
The Band of Criminals includes:
Ravael, a spellslinger who just wants to be the very best;
Vector, a summoner who just wants his sister and other ghouls to be happy;
Topper, a sharpshooter who just wants a nice, stable, cozy job;
Phase, a B&E specialist who just wants to get her family back. (Yours truly)
We left off with Phase sending a private message on BBS:
PM @The Laughing Man “Ha, fraggin’ Ha!”
[Yo! Where to next? Phase]
And it got answered about two weeks later…
PM @Phase–.–.—- ((message delivered 2053/11/03, the date is displayed as seen))
[You got the flower? That’s very good. Mr. Johnson has another job for you. Be in Escapeocity tonight. Eight p.m. sharp. I think I don’t have to tell you to leave your toys at home. You don’t want me to come to you. You wouldn’t like it. By the way, there’s a dress code there. And bring the flower, it will be useful.]
>>>UnknownSender SYSTEM ERROR #404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404#404rEBOOTINGHoSt
So we did. After discussing it over Matrix chat, we decided to case the joint ahead of time. Placed in the corporate part of the northern Northside in Chicago, Escapeocity was a bar/restaurant/escape room stylized for 1920s-1930s, and hella expensive. Thankfully, we’re not that bad at shadowrunning, and we can afford drinks at 30¥ each.
Topper, Vector and Phase went there two hours earlier, Rav being busy (mostly outside of game, as this part took place via text-chat on Discord between sessions). Topper checked out the security in the bar, Vector did some astral observation of magical defences, and Phase on hawk’s wings made sure they know about every escape route, grates and maglocks that could block their tactical retreat (she picked up Adept Spell during the last initiation, and have added shapechange to her repertoire of B&E techniques).
Sadly, nothing was amiss, and the security pretty tight but not suspiciously so. After some time and Phase shamelessly joke-flirting with Topper (hard to say who was more uncomfortable with it in the end; both were on the verge of falling off their chairs, laughing), she went out to pick up the stolen flower from the secret location (totally a PO box). As nobody contacted us by 8:00, Phase did what she does best and just talked to the staff:
Yo, I’m Phase. My friends and I have a meeting here. The reservation might be under the name of Mr. Johnson?
And yeah, it totally was. We were led to one of the rooms with datajack cables and trodes and after making sure we’re reasonably safe (cameras checked, spirits set to guard us), we put them on and found ourself in a luxury mansion, with puzzles to solve and key to unlock. Yes, our GM gave us an in-game mini-game: this one, exactly.
After we solved, a message from Mr. Johnson was displayed…
Phase was first to escape the room, so she was also the first to go, collect four credsticks, plane tickets (fill-in-your-name type as it’s a local flight from Chicago to Columbia, barely 400 km or so) and a photo of Jane Foster with her address written on the back.
After we were out of there, we discussed our options. We weren’t really that keen on going through O’Hare airport, with out Rating 4 fake SINs, and all the illegal stuff we’d need to smuggle some other way. So we decided to hop in The Bubble (if you missed its introduction last time, it’s a sphere of sculpted magical ice, covered with invisibility spell, concealment and powered either with levitation or with spirit-supplied movement. A nice, fast and convenient mode of transportation over fences and overland).
We met on Rav’s and Topper’s boat, drifting somewhere on the Lake Michigan. (Once you’re being hunted by Señor Oscuro’s second-in-command, you learn to appreciate a mobile house. Makes it harder to find and kill you.) With hindsight 20/20, we probably should have told our Mr. Johnson about the change of plans, as at 23:05, five minutes after our plane departed without us, Phase got a call from her fixer, Carver:
What did you do again?
Nothing yet, said Phase. What’s up?
Yeah, right. Then why is there a bounty on each of your heads, put up a minute ago? 250.000¥ for each of you?
Oh, said Phase. That’s nothing. Just a small misunderstanding with Mr. Johnson. I’ll let him know everything’s alright, he probably just got worried.
Carver disconnected without another word (a standard practice of his, nothing unusual), and Phase sent a quick message to Mr. Johnson’s number: It’s all good, we’re just going to Columbia using different method, just now leaving Chicago. We didn’t want to raise any suspicions in case somebody has Columbia’s airport under surveillance.
Hoping that the bounty will disappear soon, and the problem will solve itself, we took our bags and left Chicago. Promptly.
Arriving in Columbia about an hour later, at midnight, we looked at the sprawling metropolis, full of lights and city life…
Well, no. After Chicago, Columbia was small, provincial and quiet. We knew that Jane’s apartment is on the fourth floor of a block building in Downtown Columbia, so taking every precaution, we landed on the roof, silent and invisible. We expected an ambush. That is, if we’re off to extract somebody important to Ehran the Scribe, he probably has her under security, just like that Amazonian plantation we visited two weeks earlier. We were also interested in any and all gang affiliations Jane might have – after all, the picture clearly showed her in some gang-adjacent attire. Might be just a matter of personal style, might be a dozen gangers guarding her butt.
(Sadly, Ice, Phase’s favourite contact / best friend / lover / the head of Chicago’s Ancients go-gang didn’t have any contacts in Columbia. Quoting: “Nope, sorry. It’s a shithole”. So we had to go in blind.)
So we landed on the roof, and Vector did his standard thing: astral perception and assensing on everything that’s still standing. And boom, here we go: signatures of powerful spells being thrown around, fading after several hours, but still visible. A fight and a- a break-in? Yes, the lock on the roof entrance door was destroyed with a shotgun blast, and there were empty shells scattered on the ground. Phase dropped to her knees, changing into a dog, and sniffed around, trying to catch the smell of whoever was there.
Oh, what a surprise. A smell of two men and a woman, all elves, and something else, like a smell of ozone and electricity, and wind… Phase whined, sat back and turned – reluctantly – into a human.
I think I know who was there. Hey, remember those guys who a couple months ago kidnapped and tortured me and my old team?
Yup, here they were. Lancelot Windtree, the head of already dismantled Young Elven Technologist, Ehran’s paladin, a mage and a prick. A free air spirit bound to Ehran the Scribe’s will, although very much against her will. Two bodyguards: a scarred dark-skinned man (drugged-up and beaten Phase called him Drizzt the first time they met and never thought to ask names later) and a woman with a face tattoo and way too many shotguns – both deadly but just a hired help.
Visibly shaken Phase updated the team on the skills and talents of Ehran’s employees. Finding them here wasn’t that surprising, but we did not expect them to force their way in… Maybe Jane wasn’t being protected by Ehran?
We went downstairs, took a good look at Jane’s apartment’s doors and went in, as they were open. What we found inside was mostly mess. A puddle of blood on the floor, semi-dried, a ruffled bed clearly showing that somebody was getting dressed fast, a kitchen with some broken pottery, and a bathroom with terribly smudged mirror. Looking around, and feeling very much like in the escape room (well played foreshadowing, GM, well played), we found a gift lighter from B. K. Lounge (quick Matrix search revealed it’s a fashionable club about 10 minutes walk from the apartment). While the mages tried to get hold of Jane using her clothes and hair as material links (This person doesn’t exist, said the summoned air spirit), Phase (who watched waaaay too many crappy movies in her life) steamed up the bathroom and looked properly at that dirty mirror, just to find a message there: HELP FIND PRETENDERS.
So, I guess, Jane Foster saw the same crappy movies.
Following the scent of dried-up blood puddle on the floor, Phase in her dog phase (really, I’ll stop with this pun at some point) sniffed her way downstairs. Five people went this way, three elves, an air spirit, and Jane; then, on the sidewalk, the scent got terribly mixed with all of the pollution and petrol fumes. One thing was clear: they got into the car and drove north. All five of them? That was unclear.
We decided to go to the B. K. Lounge and ask around for Jane. The club had some queue in front so we did the standard ‘shadowrunner in a small town’ and just threw money around until the problem disappeared. Just in case Jane was hiding there, we split to cover all of the entrances, which ended up with the guys walking into a bar full of gangers, and Phase walking in on some kind of yearly yakuza meet&greet. Thankfully, the guys are socially savvy, and Phase knows her yakuza etiquette, so we didn’t get immediately killed.
Instead, we let Topper, who for better or worse is our face, to do his magic. He went up to the bar and asked about one Jane Foster who apparently likes to visit this establishment – or for a meeting with Pretenders whom we were asked to find.
So you’re the ones who tried to kidnap Janey! shouted the bartender, and the 20+ gangers pulled out their weapons.
No, no, no! We’re the other ones! shouted Phase with her 4 dice pool for con.
Oh, no, quite the opposite, said Topper with his 20+ con dice pool. We’re the ones she asked for help. She told us to find the Pretenders and get her the help she needs to avoid those people.
Oh, in that case, said the bartender, it’s a great pleasure to make your acquiantance.
Well, maybe not exactly how the conversation went but that’s the tl;dr version (makes sense in a post long enough to put a potato at the end of it, right?)
We quickly learned, thanks to Topper’s great charisma and conversation talents, that the Pretenders helped Jane to escape and hide at the St. James’s House for Wayward Women, or something like that – an old unused church that was taken over by a gang of ex/current sex workers pretending to be nuns. (Don’t @me or my GM, that’s an official campaign, and also, everybody has the right to cosplay a sexy nun if they want to.) We made sure the Pretenders had no way of contacting Jane and telling her that we’re coming (as, obviously she did not ask for our help), and hit the road again, trying to make as little noise about our search as possible.
So, as Columbia’s super small, in two minutes we were already doing recon at the church, it’s magical wards, escape routes, guards… and then decided we’ll just roll with the con and knock on the front doors.
Hi, we’re looking for Jane, said Phase.
Jane, they’re here! shouted the Mother Superior, a dark-skinned human woman in a sexy-nun Halloween costume, with a leather mini skirt and a rocket launcher, who opened the doors.
We heard the sound of breaking glass and somebody escaping quickly, probably with some spiritual help. The rocket launcher got pointed at our faces.
Two minutes later, and another amazing con pitch and roll by Topper, and the pseudo-nuns agreed to call Jane and arrange a meeting, so we can actually talk and explain why we’re the good guys.
So, the meeting was arranged, the pseudo-nuns got some money for their troubles and a lot of free pick-up lines from Phase (yes, picking up half the NPCs is her thing), and we were free to movement ourselves to the desolate part of the city, where decrepit warehouses and shut-down factories gave a lot of ambush opportunities. We were told that Jane is there with some of her friends from the Pretenders and that we’re not to make any trouble or else.
Indeed, when we arrived at the place, we’ve found there seven people waiting for us, weapons at the ready. One of them, a blue-haired twenty-something girl in a leather jacket. The other six…
Phase, the fearless, in-your-face brawler who doesn’t flinch no matter what’s in front of her, stopped dead in her tracks. Took a good, long look at the six gangers. And took off her helmet.
A tall, dark-haired male human, at least a half Cherokee blood.
A dwarven woman with heavy make-up and a stern gaze.
A blond male troll, his body covered with tattoos from the neck down.
A pale, red-haired female human with a cyberarm.
A dainty Asian orc female with long hair and protruding tusks.
A dark-skinned male elf in the most 80s haircut imaginable.
The elf came forward, brandishing an SMG on a sling. He approached Phase with an aggressive expression on his face, gripping his weapon tightly. Reached out to her – and got hugged immediately. For the longest while.
Tomahawk. Trix. Moose. Genie. Luna. Slash.
Phase used to be a part of a gang – a small street gang of slightly older than her cast-outs and misfits. She joined them when she was 17 and over the next seven years they became a family. Robbing small stores, breaking into warehouses, drinking beer, eating pizza, doing some recreational drugs. (Fine. A lot.) They were very supportive of Phase’s plan to become the best ring fighter in Chicago, and when before one B&E job she said she’d rather go and fight to continue her winning streak than go with them to rob a random supermarket, they of course agreed.
When she woke up three days later, still on drugs and with a badly beaten-up face, she learned that the job did not go well. In fact, it went terribly bad. With her family bagged by a team of Lone Star Security, she found herself without family, without home and without anything to keep her going.
After months of spiralling downwards between fight clubs, drugs, bad choices, gangs, and rehabs, she finally managed to put herself back together thanks to a small-scale fixer, Coinspinner, who gave her an opportunity to become a shadowrunner.
So, almost exactly a year after Phase lost everything, after months of looking for her family and finding exactly zero clues about their whereabouts – no records of them ever being detained, even! – she went on a job to the village of Columbia and got them back.
Just. Like. That.
Good to see you, Phase, they said. Yeah, no, we didn’t spend that much time in jail, maybe a week before a guy got us out and told us to go to Columbia and join the Pretenders, and then we met Jane, and she joined our group, and now we’re here. So, what’s up?
Fucking. Mr. Johnson.
So, after the joys of reunion of a perfectly happy if a bit surprised gang and a completely flabbergasted Phase who didn’t even think to introduce her new team to her new team, we decided to proceed with the objective. After the gangers informed Jane that Phase and her chummers can be trusted, the conversation became way easier.
We told Jane that we got hired to find her and take with us to Seattle – before Ehran’s goons find her. She had no idea what do they want and was rather sceptical about what our employer may want from her. As we didn’t really know that ourselves, we just went with ‘talk’ and played more informed than we actually were. I suppose the crucial point of the negotiation came with the question: But what if I don’t want to go with you to Seattle?
Well, we said, we’ll ask again, more politely. But we will not force you to go.
And that’s how we “kidnapped” Jane Foster.
But everything changed when the Ehran’s Rescue Team attacked.
We managed to spot them coming; most of us anyway, but that was good enough – saved us all from being hit by grenades and ball lightnings.
So, a band of a free air spirit, a mage and two bodyguards got themselves equipped with four extra air spirits and decided to ambush us. Well, not us, as we made almost no noise during our search for Jane, conducted the whole business in about half an hour, and didn’t raise any suspicions. They decided to ambush Jane and her ganger friends. If they knew about us, they’d come with artillery.
Phase, being the fastest as usual, started it off with a movement-powered charge at the mage, Lancelot Windtree with whom she had some lovely, intimate conversations a couple months ago, when he tortured and interrogated her for information about this chain of jobs. Body-slammed and electrocuted by her shock gloves, Lancelot fell to the ground, badly wounded. Rav put some barriers around Jane and the rest, forcing the opponents to spend time disabling them before they could do us any harm, Vector burned them with a flamethrower spell, and Topper with Slash put the two bodyguards under two overlapping fields of suppressive fire, taking them out of the fight just a moment after they lobbed a grenade at the gang (didn’t even have the time to explode).
A couple ball lightnings later, with some air spirits disabled by spells and Phase punching them in the ethereal faces, two bodyguards unconscious on the ground, and Lancelot barely breathing across the parking lot, the Ehran-bound free air spirit decided fuck it, I’m outta here and just disappeared, leaving her team behind (she never liked them in the first place). So did Lancelot, burning edge and getting one of the remaining spirits to get him out of here. We didn’t chase him, nor did we finish off the bodyguards. After all, they’re just doing their job, and we’re not murders. We left them to Lone Star officers that would come like vultures about 15 minutes after the last shot was fired.
We picked up Luna who got badly hit by lightning, healed up everybody who needed healing, and packed ourselves into the gang’s van. On quick hawk wings Phase flew to Jane’s apartment, left the black rose there, and we called the Johnson, telling him we’re ready to go to Seattle. The four of us, Jane, and her six ganger friends. He did not object.
We got on a private jet on Columbia airport and flew to Seattle. And then roleplayed all the amazing reunions, interactions, jokes, drama, and video games tournaments for two weeks irl.
And then we got to finally meet the Johnson.