Hc Svnt Dracones – Echoes of the Past – Episode 2

Months after the crime that brought a group of corporate agents together, a new lead suddenly resurfaces to bring them together again. This will also bring a new agent to the group, who seems to share the same dark moment from the past as the others. Only this lead will take them to the dark underworld of Mars’ capitol city, and make them deal with an insane poison master. And maybe draw closer to the mysterious terrorist from their past.

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  1. My take on the corps isn’t so much “our corps name us” as “this is just our way of things.” Like how in North America you don’t get “Van” for a last name prefix while you do in the Netherlands, or Lastname Firstname like you do with Japan. ASR just prefers a programming variable naming convention (see camelCase) for people as well (fitting for the company responsible for Cogs), just as IRPF does acknowledge last names but prefers to prefix animal family and species prefixes (Mu’We for Mustelidae Weasel) when addressing others instead of their last name. ASR does still value a first name, they just join firstLast together. In normal conversation though just the first name is used, as normal. It’s just how it’s presented on say, a driver’s license or a contract.

    Cogs didn’t go skynet because they aren’t real artificial intelligences, they’re real intelligences in artificial bodies. Their brain is an always on neural network construct with basically volatile memory, so when they lose power, they’re essentially dead. When they’re brought online, they know basically nothing as any infant would, but learn as any infant as well. They “grow” by swapping chassis over their lifetime (ASR “kindly” donates these upgrades for free until they’re adult sized at age 20, but they’re basic model bodies). Since they learn and form neural connections as any Vector does, they have the same emotional range as any other Vector. None of them get angry enough to want to bring about the downfall of all organic life, and computer systems miraculously don’t work in that same interconnected way 700 years from now like they do in today’s world.

    It’s kind of an idyllic dystopia. Nobody starves, everyone basically gets free money for existing, but life while not an employee of a corporation is still a lot worse than being on a payroll.

    Snakes are mostly limbless, opposite page 87 (or page 85, snakes are only available as laterals, which are normal animal configurations, meaning they’re usually pretty small). They use a fancy electromagnetic harness thing that lets them manipulate items at close range. The taur morphism for a snake though gives them a normal vector upper body complete with arms, and also gives them normal vector sizes for free (page 95).

    Hemis are mostly just unique and occasionally attract extra attention, but also occasionally have a modicum of distrust (as practically the only form of racism I’ve read about) due to them appearing somewhat human.

    Also combat is passive defence. Your base is 8 for successful hit as normal. +1 for cover automatically, and defensive actions only work behind cover. Each defence action up to 4 actions (for a total of +5) increases the difficulty of hitting the target. For example two defence actions while behind cover raises you from 8 to 11 to get hit. An 8, 9, or 10 hits cover though, and lowers the nerve of the target being shot at. Nerve is a pool of mental health for all the combatants of a particular side (mob mentality), but many people give up when their nerve is lowered to 40-50% (“I don’t get paid enough to die.”) and will offer to surrender. Players succumb to this when their nerve hits 0, but can tell the GM they’re going to fight to the bitter end (supposedly making it likely you’ll die). Hitting cover drops nerve by 1. Actually doing damage drops nerve by the damage dealt, up to their maximum health lost. Armour damage doesn’t count, the character expected their armour to take the hit for them I guess.

    If you rolled that 11 or higher though in the above example, you do hit your target for the damage of your weapon and ammo modifier, multiplied by the number of successes. A shotgun for example is 11 damage, basically meaning you can outright kill someone in a bulletproof vest in as little as 4 successes (44 damage, with a weak body granting 20 HP and the bulletproof vest granting 20), a single attack! Ross’ power armour (the GRIZ17 I assume? Which is coverage 2, so not sealed against a vacuum or gas as a coverage 3 would!) is a special exception on top of an already tanky character, but he could still die out in the open from a couple of assault rifles (dealing 8 damage by default, multiplied by a potential 4 successes for an unskilled shooter). Remember, rate of fire adds extra dice, meaning even a lowly handgun gives you +1 die.

    If you’re using the rate of fire dice, that’s basically you expending a few rounds in an attack. An SMG uses 4 or more rounds per attack (maximum potential of 8 I guess? 5 Mind:Acuity + 3 rate of fire), and can do 4 bursts before you reload. A handgun would be firing 2 or more bullets. This is just shooting to hit the target. A single round can be fired though at the cost of those rate of fire bonus dice (so just Mind:Acuity + Ranged Combat). 1 success (8 + cover bonus) means you hit. 2 successes means you can aim for a body part that may not be covered by armour (like a limb for bulletproof vests) and bypass that protection. 3 successes (meaning Mind:Acuity is 3 or higher) means you can shoot them in the head doing triple the damage. In this case successes are accuracy, not damage, so your potential damage is lower but the potential to bypass armour means you might actually kill your target faster. Also for most guns this doesn’t use up your clip, so you can shoot a handgun essentially indefinitely by not taking the +1 die (but simultaneously only being able to do 5 damage per shot).

    So TL;DR:
    – Base to hit is always 8
    – Cover gives an automatic +1 to everyone
    – Defence actions can increase this bonus to +5
    – Melee ignores cover bonuses but is still subject to logic (no stabbing a dude through a solid brick wall with a knife)
    – Your cover bonus also affects your accuracy when shooting since you’re cowering more, so that +5 defence means you also need a 13 or higher to hit people. Use defence actions after shooting
    – Cover gets hit instead if you roll between 8 and the dodge bonus
    – Multiply the damage of the weapon by the number of successes rolled
    – Bonus dice from rate of fire, or melee weapon size (small weapons are Body:Strength, medium weapons are Body:Strength/2 rounded up, large and LAN are 1 die)

  2. The IRPF has a monopoly on police services outside of Spyglass Corptowns. “In-house” corporate security only gets involved in things like contract disputes or keeping company secrets.

    Spyglass is halfway between the Extropians and Anarchists.

  3. Cool episode, but I have a feeling this is shaping up to be a short campaign!

    The party is so screwed with a body-count like that in a highly-connected setting. Even when the targets deserve it, major atrocities, particularly the viscerally horrifying, primal-fear-exploiting kind that large actors often agree not to do even to their worst enemies and mostly keep their word about, tend to attract attention.
    People who wouldn’t have noticed the headline “Crime boss and 13 gang members found dead with knife wounds”, and would have raised a quizzical eyebrow at “Heavy weapons used in massive shootout in Section 8 gang hideout, dozens slain” before forgetting it by the end of the day, will be shocked and disturbed by the report “Entire crime syndicate wiped out in horrific chemical attack, death toll exceeds three hundred!”, and may demand bloody retaliation upon at least a symbol of the perpetrators to restore their illusions of safety and stability in the world (because the criminals were small-time powers who preyed upon the weak, while you are nobodies who wiped out a stronger force and thus seem more threatening to those with feelings of power and security, especially since most of your… victims… didn’t even know you were coming, sparking feelings of paranoia surrounding you). In extreme cases, they might not feel appeased by such retaliation (eg. killing Miasma or the party, or some patsy), and will continue to lash out at targets of opportunity indefinitely without finding solace. If these people are sufficiently well funded or able to stir similar feelings in the public, it could end very badly for our heroes, not to mention bystanders!

    That said, ludicrous levels of indiscriminate overkill supplied on somebody else’s bill by conveniently unhinged NPCs did prove itself a useful, if both ethically and strategically questionable, substitute for a ninja. One can’t argue with the effectiveness of the operation, even though it’s potentially spawned serious long-term problems a quieter approach could have avoided. At least the gang isn’t coming back to avenge their leader anytime soon (at least not in large numbers).

    It’s also really hard to kill a massively superior, well-prepared, entrenched force by trickery in any way that doesn’t make people react in that manner, because hearing the story forces people to consider as threats all those they previously felt beyond reach of, and people don’t like being reminded of their biological (or mechanical) fragility. In a setting where, unlike Eclipse Phase anywhere but the Jovian Republic, immortality is highly impractical (seemingly suppressed by powerful forces?), reminding people of their mortality is likely to lead to an incredible amount of heat. That’s how terrorism works. You remind people that they are mortal and the malicious actions of a few nutballs can kill even those who feel safe and secure beyond reasonable doubt (even if there’s negligible chance of it actually happening), and everybody’s brains shut down and they lie, self-deceive, oppress, assault, torture, and murder blindly in an attempt to restore the feeling of perfect safety, which was illusory to begin with. Societies sacrifice their very principles and goals in the instinctive pursuit of (imaginary) safety if traumatically reminded of individual fragility. That effect is NOT something you should bait. It will go very badly for you and everyone else involved.
    TL;DR: Mass panic is BAD! Be less disturbing! Otherwise you get functionally-infinite budgets thrown against you to restore societal order. Any plan involving the words “a whole lot of nerve gas” or the shading in of whole floors or buildings on diagrams with little floating skulls is not one suitable for avoiding mass panic!

    The (false) reports of mercenary child murder also won’t help your cause…
    Maybe invest in some community goodwill? Save some orphans from a burning building? Remove a small extortion ring from a neighborhood with some minimal, but public and embarrassing violence? Other stereotypical good-guy things? Make purchases with positive externalities for others to enjoy even when they’re not quite worth the cost for their direct benefits, and consider the cost/value differential PR expenditure? Hand out bribes preferentially to bullets? There’s no real easy solution.

    I suppose not getting caught is always an option, but that depends on what happens to Miasma. Also, something reasonably resembling police has the gang’s computing devices, possibly with the false child murder stuff on them, even if you somehow left no evidence on the canister or in the gunfight/entrance/extraction (unlike your ninja, you all (when not in sealed power armour, at least) shed SOMETHING (hair for most of you, skin cells for probably all of you, etc.)and presumably bear fingerprints, to say nothing about bullets fired and blood spills or camera footage). That’s another loose end (also painting a grim picture) that can probably be traced back to you pretty easily, if they can crack any encryption that may be present.

    Still, this campaign is going to be fun to listen to going forward. Things may be about to escalate seriously now that relatively large-scale chemical warfare in the gang scene has hit the headlines (I’m assuming that your previous employers’ influence and cover-ups prevented a panic over their missing torpedoes last time, but they’re probably not protecting you from this one unless they need to hire you to extract/eliminate Miasma to protect themselves from incrimination if Miasma is captured), and I’m excited to see how fallout from the party’s choices interacts with the efforts of their original adversaries to create challenge and drama.

    Keep up the good work! Even if the adventure goes horribly wrong, it’s still an awesome experience to listen to your campaigns, especially in sci-fi games!

  4. I love how Aaron’s immediate reaction to the kid is ‘no!’ while Ross and Shaun immediately go into ‘this is how we fake it to protect them.’

  5. To Matz05:

    Remember that their MarsCo exec contact put them in touch with Miasma as well as the father of the execution target. While “hundreds dead in gas leak” is a horrible headline, mention that it was a biological weapon could be conveniently left out of the body of the report. The exec wouldn’t want to be implicated for knowing about Miasma or the player’s connection to the gas bombing. As well they’re doing IRPF a slight service for taking out competition, and for dealing with a criminal that MarsCo couldn’t get rid of themselves because of their sovereign corporate protection.

    You’re absolutely right though that people would take notice of such a horrific act at the corporate level though. If this was Shadowrun, I’d expect a follow up lead from the MarsCo exec directing the players to an out of the way mining complex.

  6. The Social Responsibility aspect is super-important to the HSD setting–a few people have suggested using HSD as an engine for a more picaresque, planet-hopping campaign like Star Trek, but I think it would lose so much if you do that. You can’t escape Big Brother and you can’t escape your reputation, and even though the game covers two planets and two or more moons, it’s *still* a claustrophobic setting. Vectors are connected and on a constant news cycle, which is a good reason for corps to hire free agents for plausible deniability, and a good reason NOT to take those contracts!

    Really enjoying the show so far 🙂

  7. I’m half asking myself why I’m re-listening to this mini-campaign and half loving it and it just encourages me to see all the strange, unique and fun games you all play. And well sometimes just silly and absolutely fantastic like this.

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