Friday, March 22, 2019

Teaching D&D to Matthias and Stephanie

I wanted to play a game with my family on the weekends the kids are home from their dad's. Since Anna plays Wardancer in our Shadowrun game I thought it would be fun to continue some Shadowrun at home, so as not to switch rulesets on her, but the overly complicated character generation of SR was daunting when I sat down with Matthias, my 14yo stepson. So, taking a feather from the cap of Dungeon Craft, I had he and Stephanie (my wife) roll up super-fast characters.

Choose ability scores on a net +7, don't worry about the scores, they're never used anyway. Just assign the modifiers. (This is based on the pregen characters from the box set of D&D5E, where all premades have a net +7 modifier score)

Pick an occupation from a random list. Stephanie picked conman, Matthias picked warrior.

I assigned them equipment, a leather shirt and a short sword. I put them on the road, the warrior became a city guard, the conman his prisoner for breaking the law.

Boom. Character creation done, playing, in less than 10 minutes.

I set them up with a common situation, on the road to the next city that actually has a jail, they come upon a coach beset with bandits. The bandits are just finishing up, and when they see a city guard they take off, a young woman over their shoulder.

Matt and Stephanie go to see what is going on, and find a man with his head bleeding. Matt tries to offer aid, but the man yells that they took  his daughter! go find them!

Stephanie asks to be cut free so she can help, the guard says no. He pulls her through the brush until they hear arguing, the woman is berating the men. Matt tries to sneak up and watch, Stephanie bursts through the brush and falls to the ground, hollering that she is being chased and needs someone to help her.

The bandits distracted, the woman takes off. One bandit chases, the other advances on Stephanie. Matt steps out and knocks the man out with a headbutt.

Stephanie scoots over and cuts herself free. She says they have to go after the woman. Matt insists that they have to go to the city. She tackles him and tries to tie him to a tree, but he breaks free. She runs off into the forest, but instead of trying to follow the woman, backtracks to the road.

Matt gets hopelessly turned around and lost for several hours.

Stephanie finds the man on the road, and wants to rob him. She has the sword of the bandit. The man pulls a small knife and attacks, she rolls max damage and kills him dead.

She rifles through the carriage, taking some nice clothing and a signet ring, and heads back to town, a new ploy brewing.

Matt is lost for hours, finds a stream, follows it, is attacked by a boar, barely manages to kill it, eats, climbs a tree, finds the direction back to his town, and returns.

Stephanie gets a room at the Inn, Matt has to explain to his guard captain how he lost a prisoner.

The next day, Stephanie heads out, back on the road, to the city.

Matt takes a leisure start, sleeps in, has mead for breakfast, grabs his horse and then heads back out to the woods to see if he can find the woman. He gets hopelessly lost again, this time wandering into the village of cannibal goblins. He is attacked, has his legs badly cut up by goblin daggers, tied, and thrown into a hut. He manages to break the terrible ropes of the goblins, smashes through the side of the hut Koolaid Man style, grabs his horse and takes off before the goblins can get him again.

Stephanie makes it to the city, dressed and disguised in men's clothes, passing as a man, and shows the signet around until she finds someone who recognizes it and gives her directions to the estate. She shows up there, bearing the terrible news of the death of the master, offering to watch the house while they go look for the daughter, which is shot down, but she is offered a pallet in the barn to sleep on. She manages to convince the stable boy to steal borrow her some things from the house to sell, and kidnap him and go with her on her adventure.

Matt makes it back to the road, and decides to see what he can find in the city. He is almost dead, and it shows when he gets to the city. The guards direct him to the temple district, and he wanders into the temple of Pelor, the Sun God. The priest is empathetic, but asks him if he is a follower of Pelor. When he says no, they name a healing sum greater than he has, but tell him if he enters into service of Pelor they will heal him and give him a place to belong (he will become a cleric of Pelor).


After testing out the super-fast character creation process, I love it. two characters, less than 10 minutes, straight into play. All skill checks were just ability checks, with target numbers reasonable and made up in my head. This for sure won't work for Shadowrun, where you are expected to be an expert in your field from the beginning. But for D&D, works great.

Props to Professor Dungeon Master from Dungeon Craft on his simplified rules. Watch his videos for some great content. Like, Share, Subscribe.

Happy gaming!


Friday, March 15, 2019

Campaign Journal - Agent Insertion

Agent Insertion


A tuna can that drops from nowhere and rolls to my feet. A school of fish burst from it's top and swarm in my vision, circling in front of me. The center of the circle is a whirlpool that forms into a very large and very hungry looking shark. It speaks.


"You're blocking the view, Volgren. What's up?"

Volgren's fish swim to the side, and I continue the analysis of the node I'm working on.

"I got a job for you," he says, "Big pay, should be milk for you and a few chummers."

I slide the node to the side, "Okay, you got my bandwidth. What are we doing?"

The shark snaps at a passing fish on it's side of the whirlpool and spits it through. I catch it. It transforms into an address. "Johnson will meet you there with the details. Dress nice and come hungry, it's aces. Bring your team."

I nod, pulling a map of the location. Colucci's. Mob restaurant. Aces.

The fish bordering the whirlpool swim faster, and burst out in all directions and become fireworks, popping and snapping, sparkles settling to a suggested floor where they dim and fade. The whirlpool and the massive shark are gone.

I call the team.

An hour later we walk into Colucci's, dressed to kill, and are directed back to the Johnson. Chummer must be six hundred pounds, five-eight in both directions, and got seven plates of food in front of him.

The scent of real meat attacks my nostrils and it must have been a pulse since I ate, because my stomach starts elbowing my ribs, hard.

Johnson offers us whatever we want off the menu, and drekk, the food was aces, no soypro here. I must have put away a month's rent in that sitting, as did most of the rest of the team. Running the shadows may be lucrative, but cyberware and top rate utilities don't fill the belly.

Johnson looks right at me and throws the offer: two hundred Gs to take some chika to a bunker up north and get her in a room. That's it. Cake, right? And to make it easier, he throws in a map, a Ford Bison RV with registration across the border, and a datapad with the chika's paydat. Tells us the chika got the rest of the data.

Aces. We negotiate for dessert, and accept.


In most pickups, the hideout is a dive, some slum in Redmond with an H user on every corner. You gotta come fully loaded or some joegang will jack your 'ware as you step on the street. Not this place.

The building is in Downtown Seattle; quiet, peaceful. Neighborhood must be home to some tridstars. It's a good thing we're wearing our suits. In shadoware we'd stick out like a script kiddie in a Red-10.

We head to the third floor, the talking elevator creaking under the weight of Jacob's steel. Room 319. We knock, the door creaks open, and inside it looks like the place has been tossed. We draw weapons and breech, clearing the area. Except it isn't clear, it's a total mess. Clothes are strewn all over, electronic parts, soy-snack wrappers, old Chinatown takeout containers tipped over. A hairdryer sounds from the bathroom.

No one tossed this place, she's just a slob. I cover the big stuffy chair with the clean side of some clothing and sit. Salestra heads towards the bathroom. I hear a scream, the hairdryer drops, and I just hope she hasn't killed our contact.

Salestra strolls around the corner and flops onto the couch, a satisfied grin on her face. Seconds later a wet haired Chinese woman in a towel and carrying a Browning heavy pistol rounds the corner and levels her pistol at each of us in turn. "Who are you? What are you doing in my apartment?"

"It's okay, chika. Settle. Johnson sent us. You know Johnson, right? Big as a house, great taste in food and clothing."

She lowers the gun slightly, but remains at the ready. "I thought insertion was Sunday."

"Sure," I say, "But we need a plan, and Johnson said you got extra intel."

She relaxes, letting the pistol drop to her side, "Wait here. I'm going to get dressed."

A few moments later she's telling us her story of why she needs inserted, describing what she knows of the building, and is providing me an access key to the matrix node and throwing out ideas like a Runner. Some scientist.


Saturday is a day of planning and driving. We jump in the Bison and head north, working on the details. The facility is known as Proteus AG, a German megacorp researching biotech and naval tech, and they're paranoid as drekk. They've had some run-ins with an eco-terrorist group in the area, but manage to avoid confrontation.

"How we doin this, choombats? Ideas." I ask.

"Go in as a camera crew? Pretend to be news." says Jacob Stone, the giant Native with an equally giant tomahawk on his side.

Salestra, always the most direct, "Drive a truck through the front door and melt faces?" Frag, chika.

"That's more our style," Jacob laughs.

I try to steer the direction more civil, "This run seems more scalpel than axe."

"Jamundi has a bunch of tricks, don't even know what they all are," says Salestra, "You mentioned mass mind control? Make them all flee the building, we just go in like salmon?"

Jamundi nods, "I can do that, or an aura of invisibility, cameras won't even see her."

I like that, "That's aces."

"I like the mind control," says Salestra, "All the non-mages leave then we only need to kill the mages..."

That, I don't like so much, "Where's the gaze gonna point? Still sounds like an axe."

She shrugs, "Eco gang."

I nod, "I want them involved."

"We hide in the crowd, let them soak bullets as we take out the turrets. Jamundi mass-minds, all eco survivors and us run in. Get to basement, throw the girl in the room, we leave before reinforcements arrive."

"Sounds plausible," says Jacob.

Salistra thinks for a moment, "Maybe the gang has explosives. Make more than one way in?"

I glance at the map Johnson gave us, "Roof is a way in."

Salistra considers that, "How high up, and how do we climb it without setting off all alarms, and fighting the entire security staff on the roof, where the only escape is down?"

"I can fly us."

We all look at Jamundi.

"You can make us fly?"

He nods, "Yeah. Well, not all at once, but yeah."

"We still need to avoid the cameras," says Jacob.

Chester calls back from the driver's seat, "True, I do have surveillance drones. I just wonder if we can conceal them from the cameras."

I nod, "Your drones might work out there, but Corp deckers are gonna know something's up unless I can burn them first."

Jacob, "We should make it look like another corp was looking for info, point the blame elsewhere."

"Yeah," I say, "Good scan."

Salestra says to me, "How do we get you jacked in?"

"I'll rattle the windows tonight, see what I can figure out. They got a net, just don't connect to the little room. Mayhaps I can run security overwatch. That's my mastery, not scratch and grab like last time. Too much meat space."

"Too bad we can't pull off a jail scene like Star Wars," says Jacob.

I scoff, "Old trids. Not even holo."

Jacob looks offended, "I like the old trids. Classics."

"Rupture the underwater team line?" asks Salestra.

Holy drekk.

"Thought you were the sneaky type, chika," I am continually surprised by her.

She shrugs, "Surveillance puts a damper on it. Also, no one is stealthy enough to go in with me."

I laugh, "Green on that."

Jacob still looks offended, "I'm stealthy."

"Well," I point out, "I get in and burn their deckers, I'm the surveillance."

"Pharaoh and I come in through the roof?" she asks, "Open the front door?"

"I'm sneaky," Chester calls from the front.

"So," I say, "You three stealthy, but Jamundi and the chika? Chika, maybe. She gotta tiptoe around that drekkhole of an apartment. I don't scan she so sneaky."

"I can be stealthy," says Jamundi.

Salestra sums up, "Jamundi, Pharaoh, Chester and myself go in through the roof, while the others hide in the woods with the eco gang, to make a distraction if things go wrong inside?"

Everyone nods.

"Guess it depends on what I find out about the facility tonight. What data do we need?" I ask.

"Approximate number of security personnel would be helpful, and security contingencies," says Jacob.

"Can we get tear gas and masks?" asks Salestra, "No-no time. Check for an alternate passage in?"

"See what I can find."

Jacob chuckles, shakes his head, and looks at Salestra, "You always want to make things complicated. Sometimes simpler is better. Less things that can go wrong."

She grins, "I'm just throwing stuff out. I'm not invested in any of them." She turns back to me, "Layout of internal security surveillance."

Chester calls out, "Better layout of the building, more details on where the office she has to get to is."

I nod, "Security and maps is good. Those were on my short list."

"We should also consider egress-- nothing ever goes as planned," Salestra points out.

I laugh, "Ain't that green."

"Also number of employees and guards on site," says Chester.

Jacob glances to the front and mutters under his breath, "I already said that."

"Right," I say, "Guard list and locs. That's a must." I give Jacob a knowing look and smile.

"Maybe a map of the ventillation system?" suggests Chester, "I could send in a drone that's basically a smoke bomb. It'll be there if things go wrong and we need help with a distraction."

I nod, "Good scan."

"And any security measures in the vents," says Jacob. I nod.

"Also a possible route for Miss Chi," says Salestra.

Was that her name? For a guy that works with data all day, you'd think I'd remember that. Think I've been unplugged too long. "We know where the stairs are. That's a start."

"We could leave her with a couple good bruises to help take heat off her for the break in," Salestra suggests.

"Frag, chika," I just can't stop myself.

"I'm serious. If they're that paranoid..." she lets it trail off.

"Let's try to get her in without scratching the paint."

Jacob laughs his big hearty laugh, "Take the fun out of it."

"Not for me," I say, "Okay. That's some good stuff. If anyone thinks of other things, speak up. We can finalize after I check the matrix tonight."


A couple hours later, Chester pulls off the road at a rest stop and we set off through the trees. Why the frag am I doing this? This is way too much meat space for me. I'm getting nature all over me. Frag. I can't belie--

I hear something. Something big. "Uh, chummers. I think we got comp--"

That's when it attacks. This huge cross between a troll and a boulder smashes through the trees and takes a swing at Salestra. She dodges, drawing her pistol in a lightning fast move and firing two rounds into it's chest. The bullets seem to do little.

In a tenth of a second Jacob lands an arrow in it's neck. The troll-rock breaks it off. Chester opens up full auto on the thing, it stumbes to the side, but a bullet grazes Salestra's scalp. She shakes it off, "Watch it, baka!" she shouts.

Chester grins, "You can take it."

It is dark as an empty data drive, and I fire two rounds off in the direction of a new sound, though I can't really say that I hit anything but a tree. Take that, Nature.

But I must have been close. A second one steps out of the shadows and swings at Jacob. He drops his bow and pulls that Tommy, knocking the blow to the side and chopping down into the beast's skull. It roars and smashes a fist into his chest.

Jamundi and Wardancer begin weaving spells, flashes and streaks of magic fly, and the rock trolls go down. We take a moment to breathe, still on our toes for more.

But more were unnecessary, because these two get back up. Holy Frag.

Jacob opens up with that Tomahawk like a beast unleashed. He smashes it down on the troll-thing's shoulder, near severing it, before hitting it to the side of the neck, almost severing the head. He spins and chops at it's knee, dropping it to the ground, and leaps, two handed overhead swing, completing the cut to take off the head.

Salestra, Chester, and the two spell flingers unleash on the other one before it finishes recovering, and knock it against a tree, then we all unload an entire clip into it's chest, reload, and stand there, our hearts pounding like mad, just waiting for it to twitch.

Sonnova.. I gotta make this thing into an IC. It'd scare any script kiddie.

Salestra pulls a knife and her datapad, snapping a pic and taking a trophy.

I say nothing, and we continue toward the facility, now hyper aware of our situation. Nature is scarier than Redmond any day.


We come to the edge of the trees and I realize that it's a good thing we had the map. The building is  void-black, no lights except the leds blinking on cameras on the roof. Like a gate to Shadowrunner's hell.

We lay low and watch for two hours to get the guard patrol. Pattern. Perfect. I code notes on my PA.

We see a weakness on the north side. There is a 10 minute window where guards can't see, and a side door that leads to a hallway and the stairs. Cameras, but that's what I'm handling tonight.

A ten foot fence with monowire at the top, and some strange black boxes every few feet that appear to be lights. We step back into the dark and trek to the Bison, considering the situation.

Back on the road, we finalize plans.

"Okay, the side door on the north wall. I think that's our way in. Can we go around the fence?" I ask.

"No way," says Jamundi, "You don't want to know what I saw in the water. That isn't an option."

That sounds scary. "Alright, you can fly us over the fence?"

He nods.

"Great. Who's going? I don't think we need everyone. That might pique some interest we don't want." Wardancer asks.

Salestra offers sniper overwatch.

Chester offers to drive get-away.

Wardancer says she'll go.

"I think just Jacob, myself, and the girl," I say. What am I thinking? I should be jacked in, comfy and cozy, back home in Seattle, security overwatch. "I'll slice the door, Jacob runs guard."

"You can take my smoke drone," says Chester.

Rigger has the right idea. Baka me.


I cinch the ropes on the old lady whose apartment I just co-opted for her matrix connection, and check the gag. Good enough. I swing the bathroom door closed and turn on some music to muffle her cries. 

I use a throwaway ID to log on and follow the address the chika gave me. She also gave me an access code, but I want to test the system first.

The node projects as a huge aquarium.

I attempt a logon. 


What the frag? I run it again. 


How secure is this system?

A huge shark swims out from nowhere and lunges at me. I thrash it with my IC killer and log off.

Fine, I'll use the key.

I reconnect with a new throwaway and bounce through another few connections to scatter my trail, and use the key. Feels like cheating, but frag, this system is locked down tight. 

I scan the systems. High level, all of them. This is going to take every bit of skill I have. 

In what feels like 15 minutes but is actually about 10 seconds of real time I upload a script to loop the cameras starting at 6:45p, download the map, personnel log, and do a quick search for paydat. 

Usually high security nodes like this have a ton of stuff that's worth something, but these guys must have it well secured, i only find 2 points, and start the download, though this attracts the attention of another security shark and a probe. I ignore the probe, ice the shark, and finish my download, jacking out.

I'm pretty sure the key will get flagged after the fight, so I don't think i'm doing security overwatch. I just hope my script succeeds, or this is going to fall apart quick.


Sunday afternoon we pick up the chika, drive to the woods, skirt the edge to avoid rock trolls, and watch for the moment. I set the loop up for a 30 minute window. We should be in and out in that much time.

I check my chrono. The cameras should be looped. The guards walk around the corner and Jacob, myself, and the chika start sprinting for the fence.

I feel myself grabbed up and launched through the air, over the fence, and set gently on the ground in front of the door. The lock is also high security, and it takes several minutes to slice. I'm sweating and getting pissed but get it.

Jacob swings the door open and checks the hall. Clear. We enter and short line for the stairs. I notice the cameras and cringe, but I don't hear the stomping of boots, so I cross my fingers and try to control my heart which is about to burst through my chest.

We escort her to the room, which opens easily. She smiles, says thanks, and closes the door behind her, leaving us standing in the hall. I look at Jacob. "Think it's going to be that easy to get out?"

He grins. "I hope not."

But it is. We leave, I replace the cover on the lock, Jamundi flies us back to the tree line, and we melt into the dark.

That was too easy. This can't be real, can it?


Friday comes none too soon. Most of us have blown through the advance and are already making plans for the rest of the cut. We arrive at Colucci's, but instead of the mountain of a man we saw before, a tree of an African human in an even nicer suit sits behind the table. This guy just exudes Corporate. He ain't no Johnson.

"I am Mr. Johnson's boss."

Well, that's not good.

(To be continued...)


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