Need Some Suggestions

Need Some Suggestions

Need Some Suggestions

Hi everyone. After a long hiatus, I’ll be MCing another session of our Sprawl game (set in the Android: Netrunner universe) this coming Saturday and I could use some ideas. So far the team (consisting of a Hacker, a Killer, and a Pusher) has done two missions over four sessions, and those have both been “standard” missions.

What I mean is, neither of those missions (a hostile extraction and a wetwork operation) have involved any of the PCs’ backstories. I’ve kept things pretty straightforward so that I and the three players could get get a handle on the rules and the characters. But now that everyone feels comfortable, I think it’s time to start making things complicated.

What I’m looking for are suggestions on ways to bring the characters’ backgrounds to the foreground, to make those choices matter. The characters are as follows:

Burn – the Hacker. Screwed over a high-level company assets to acquire their cyberware and is now hunted by NBN (an infotainment megacorp that has monopoly on date. Basically, if it’s on the net, NBN knows about it). Burn is careful to the point of paranoia, lives in an undisclosed apartment off the grid, and almost never goes on missions in person. They look like a plastic Angelina Jolie (from Hackers), and, yes, their cyberdeck is named “Acid”.

Eleven – the Pusher. Raised in the Haas-Bioroid corporate arcology (still has family there), drank the HB kool-aid, and was on the management fast-track before she was “reallocated”. (HB is a labor solutions megacorp, producing weak-AI robots known as bioroids.) Eleven “associates too strongly with the product” for HB’s tastes, but she’s kept on as a corporate asset. Eleven is outright owned by Haas-Bioroid, once for her skillwires (mandatory for HB management) and again from her dermal plating (implanted after that first mission). Eleven is (so far) unwilling to accept missions that go against HB’s interests.

Vega – the Killer. Has yet to fire his automatic shotgun, Mercy, as Eleven and Burn have been so efficient at their jobs. Is also an off the books Haas-Bioroid corporate asset (like Eleven), but is more mercenary about it and has gone on at least one mission with Burn acting against HB’s interests. He’s owned by HB thanks to his corp-installed Neural Interface and Targeting Suite, but his Muscle Grafts were installed in a back alley chopshop. Unfortunately they were boosted, and he is now hunted by whomever owned the truck they :fell off” of.

Thoughts on how I can bring these entanglements to the fore?

6 thoughts on “Need Some Suggestions”

  1. Haven’t had that many seasons with The Sprawl (sadly) but played enough other pbtm games.

    What I would do is fill in details.

    The backstories are nice and filled with story potential. But they are a bit unspecific.

    Stories are always about people.

    So I would start and ask leading questions to my players fishing for very exact details. Look for people and relationships in their backstories. If possible make connections. You can be bold about that.

    Eg I ask one player “who was your dearest colleague you had more than a strict work relationship with back then?” and another “how has that colleague crossed you?”

    Use leading questions to fish for details and people and relationships, intersect them and look for a lever. Let the player fill in the details. If possible make interest triangles.

    With those details it should be easy to create plots referencing the backstories using those people/relationships.

    With that generic approach I always got the story connected to the players backstories and – more important – in a direction they cared about.

  2. Android: Netrunner’s setting is the Cyberpunk 2020 setting, by way of pedigree at least. Night City.

    Anyway, I digress. Backstories are nice and all, but goals and passions matter more. The PCs’ Directives tell you what they want to achieve, what they care about, etc.

    It looks like NBN and HB are your go to corporations to use here. They’re willing to take a job for HB. But what if the job was unethical?

    The dramatic question for this team seems to be: “How far does their loyalty to HB go?”

    Make a series of three missions where they have to work for HB and do something increasingly repugnant. At any point they can balk, double-cross HB, or whatever.

    If the PCs refuse to take one of these jobs, start a clock. Some OTHER runner team with fewer scruples DOES take the jobs. If the PCs ignore it, advance the clock through until Eleven’s parents are hunted down and killed. Only, every time the clock advances, clue Eleven in that their parents are acting strange. Also, it should be trivially easy for them to get HB’s rival (NBN or some other corp) to hire them to expose HB’s evil crimes, allowing them to get paid to do counter-missions against HB’s runners’ missions.

    Here are some suggested missions:

    Mission 1, they have to kill an innocent person.

    How far does their loyalty to HB go? Word of it gets out, of course, and it causes a protest, which inspires a labor strike…

    Mission 2, they have to stop a worker strike by planting false evidence against the strike leaders making it look like they’re pawns of a rival corp, then killing the leaders and making it look like a murder-suicide.

    How far does their loyalty to HB go? A week later, a rumor leaks, though, that the murder-suicide was a setup, and so the strike resumes.

    Mission 3, they have to destroy a charity children’s clinic that has been using low cost medicines off-label to treat a pediatric condition that HB makes an incredibly expensive drug for by kidnapping the doctor and turning her over to HB’s legbreakers, and then poisoning the patients so their recovery falsely appears to have been a sham.

    How far does their loyalty to HB go? A week later, a pirate news site starts putting out evidence that HB poisoned the kids, so it would look like the treatment didn’t work. And the pirate news site promises an interview with the doctor who the PCs thought they handed over to HB for torture and execution. Apparently, someone broke the doc out of HB’s secret prison!

    Mission 4, if it comes to it, involves killing Eleven’s family for disloyalty. Turns out they’ve been slipping news reports about HB’s unethical activities to the media, and they helped engineer the doctor’s escape. They work for an underground anti-corp resistance movement, it seems. They’ve fled the city, so the runners have to track them down and kill them.

    How far does their loyalty to HB go?

    Then of course, HB will kill the runners. The leak was PROBABLY Eleven’s parents, but there’s a slim chance that one or more of the PCs were the culprit, and they were too close to the traitors…

    How far does their loyalty to HB go?

  3. A few ideas: one of Eleven’s family has a favor, a job that has to be kept hush hush from the rest of the family.

    Vega’s cyberdoc is being blackmailed, maybe for something mildly distasteful, but the doc is in trouble.

    Burn is harder, there’s not much there. Maybe something simple, like hot new deck mod plans are available, and it’ll be super flash to have…

    But yeah, you need to know the people in their backstory.

    Their favorite noodle shop is being shook down for protection money.

    The grocery delivery place for Burn suddenly stops delivering, why?

    H-B has a stock scam they need help with. Do something to make the prices dip, they buy it up, then something else to bring the prices higher.

  4. Thanks very much for the suggestions everyone.

    You’re right about filling in details Bastian Dornauf. There are a few things we need to fill in, but the account I posted above was intentionally brief – my eyes tend to glaze over when I read lengthy accounts of RPG characters from other people’s games, and I assume other people are the same. That being said, I do need to ask more leading questions to find hooks to sink into the characters.

    We all play the Android: Netrunner LGC together Craig Brown. When I saw there were three players, meaning we’d create four corps, my mind immediately went to Haas-Bioroid, Jinteki, NBN, and Weyland. I knew that I would subconsciously be using these corps for inspiration, so I just said: “Hey. How about we play in the Android universe?” and all the players thought that was rad. It’s a nice touchstone for us, and helps us all be on the same page. Plus, I loved my players’ “oh jeeze, we’re so fucked” reactions when they identified the Argus Security bodyguards at the end of their last mission. 😉

    Starting a clock to track HB’s reaction to the team not taking jobs is a fantastic idea Jon Lemich . Both Eleven and Vega live in corporate apartments, which they know are bugged, with direct lines to HB “Dispatch” – the anonymous entity that gives them HB sanctioned, though off the book, missions. I’ve definitely got to bring Eleven’s family into this. Funnily enough, Eleven has no problem killing people or Jinteki clones, but she’ll balk at the destruction of bioroids.

    Burn has been posing a bit of a problem Mischa Krilov. As the Hacker, they prefer to “piggyback” on Vega or Eleven through the Net, while staying at home during missions. They’re an absolute beast with matrix stuff, and can really fuck up corporate systems. I need to threaten their physical body, but as the player has been really careful about Traces, doing something before Burn messes up feels unfair.

    I think I have an idea for the teams next mission though. Thanks.

  5. If you’re an Evil GM™, maybe there’s an airgapped system. The hacker has to get there in person.

    Also, they have to know someone that they care about, right? Even if online only.

Comments are closed.