Everyone has a story, as the saying goes. You might be from any of a dozen different backgrounds, but a few things tie you together with others that you will work with from time to time.
You are all SINless – it doesn’t matter why, or how, that is for you to decide. If you’re from the streets, then you never had one; if you’re from the corps or some other sector of the “civilized world” then you have arranged for your former identity to be deleted from the databanks. Many may establish new identities through various channels, but these are forgeries, and will eventually leak out through the databases in the light of day.
You are one of the few that stand between order and chaos, right and wrong, honor and disgrace. You must decide. But always remember that you do not exist – you are a “deniable asset” that can be used to further someone else’s goals. The trick is that you find a way to fulfill your contract and use it to your benefit to achieve your own goals. Whether it is a quest for a life of luxury, revenge against a certain corporation for perceived wrongs, or just to maintain the status quo between the powers that control the world around you, it is up to you, and you alone, to control your destiny and achieve your goals.
Flexibility should be your mantra. From day to day, you will be challenged by various people, places, and “things”. You need to learn to adapt and change in order to survive. The ability to negotiate and successfully give-and-take, whether it be during a business deal, or looking at the wrong end of a combat shotgun, is an important skill. Plan ahead, and be ready to have contingencies in place should something unexpected happen. Know that you will have to work with various people, and you will not always be able to depend on them to watch your back or have the same ideals as yourself – remember that for the short term, the goal in sight is more important.
Finally, remember that the age-old adages still apply – Trust No-one, Prepare for Peace by Preparing for War, Know Your Enemy, plus dozens of others. And of course, Never Deal With a Dragon…
So, here you will find some short works that will help shed some light, so to speak, on what it will be like to run the shadows in Shadowrun Missions. Take heed, and learn from those that have gone before!
The Razor’s Edge – Some insights from a retired shadowrunner on your place in the world, your reputation, and how to make it to retirement… ”
The Fox and The Hounds – No shadowrunner can survive long without a fixer – but just what does a fixer do, and what is their ultimate goal? Like ‘runners, not all fixers are the same, but it helps to know what you could be dealing with…
Cast Off Your SINs – This article explains some of the “ins and outs” of credsticks and why shadowrunners are SINless.
Below are those three stories.
The Razor’s Edge
by Stephen Gabriel, © 2002
> Hey chummers! The name is Razor. I doubt if any of you have heard of me, I retired from the shadows about five years ago. You are probably too young to have known me and anyone old enough to know me is most likely retired either of their own volition or that of a bullet. I’m here to talk to you because a lot of people want to know what it means to run the shadows and how to survive it. I’d like to say just keep it clean, but that means so much more than you would ever think. So, I’ll start with a few basic topics to help you fit in the big picture.
I know you are all sitting there thinking that you know what the big picture is and that you know your place in it and I’m here to tell you most of you have it wrong. The big picture is this, the world, the corps, the crime syndicates and the governments are all massive ecosystems, huge living entities composed of smaller entities all the way down until you reach the little people themselves. The big ecosystems vie for control of the whole thing through market position, sales, voters and the like. Sometimes they vie too much and people like us get called in. Now here’s the clincher, we AREN’T part of the system. We don’t belong. We are a parasitic infection that is allowed to exist as long as we don’t get noticed. Once we get noticed, we eventually get hosed, one way or another. We are not part of society. We are outside it. Their laws and rules protect them, not us. That also means that no one gives a drek if you or I get hosed, captured and tortured, brain-wiped or executed on the eleven o’clock news. So there you have it, the big picture, and we aren’t in it, because if we were, they wouldn’t be using us. Don’t ever forget this fact or it will kill you.
We get involved in the big picture when things go wrong or when somebody in there wants things to go wrong. That person comes to us with an offer of employment, temporary at best, not always honorable, almost never legal and all too frequently lethally dangerous. This person, Mr. Johnson by any name, uses us because of our skills and our anonymity. They don’t hire us because they like us or care about us. They hire us because we can do the job and can’t be traced back to them easily. This relationship implies a degree of professional trust between the Johnson and us and it’s important to understand what this trust implies or you could end up hung out to dry or dead. First and foremost, take the Johnson at his word in the meet. That means no detect truth, no mind probe, no anything of that sort. If the Johnson can afford to hire us, then he can afford to bring along some of his own muscle and if his people don’t kill you, your fixer will. Now that doesn’t mean you have to trust him afterwards, just take him at face value at the meet. If you just happen to learn something about your Johnson, use it for your own protection but NEVER try and leverage a Johnson with his own dirt unless you are absolutely positive that his own people will hang him for what you’ve got. Do it wrong and you will never walk away from him alive. Your Johnson expects a certain degree of truth and you should remember that when you deal with him. Lying to your Johnson is a quick way to permanent retirement, lying to your fixer is even faster. And if you do have any problems or questions about your Johnson, talk to your fixer. Most will help out because it’s not just your life or rep on the line, it’s theirs as well
Part of dealing with your Johnson is paying the proper respect. This person wants to pay you to do something, they are your client and you should treat them that way. And respect goes a lot farther then just that. Remember the big picture? Respect is one of those things that is going to get you through the drek alive when it all rolls down hill. Remember to pay respect where its due and it will eventually come back to you. You respect your fixer and the Johnson because one is your boss, the other your client. But don’t forget the others out there, your contacts, bouncers, gang bangers, security guards and just about anyone else you meet out there. Show them a little respect and things go a lot smoother. Make sure your contacts know how special they are to you as well, a little nuyen goes a long way with these people and they can help out a lot. Bouncers and security guards and even Lone Star are a lot easier to deal with if you respect them because then they see you as legitimate people, not the low life below-the-law-scum that you are. Even gangers deserve a certain modicum of respect, especially if you are on their turf. On the other hand, you need to know when to drop the respect and resort to force, whether it’s intimidation or fighting. My advice, try the respect road first, it’s easier and you can always thump it out of them later on. Also remember that paying respect to someone can get you a big payoff later on–a friend. People remember those who paid them respect and in turn may try and help you later on if they can.
Lastly, I want to talk about your profile, the image that the people on the street and in the corps perceive of you. Optimally, someone in our line of work wouldn’t have one, we’d never be seen or noticed. That only works in the trids, chummer. Every place you go, there are cameras and sensors and watchers and people. And they all see a little bit of you and the more they get, the bigger your profile becomes. And when it gets big enough, they’ll come looking for you and it likely won’t be a nice get together. If you look back, you’ll quickly realize that your profile depends a lot on how you fit in overall, how you treat your Johnson and how you show your respect. The better you understand and handle these, the smaller your profile becomes because people that respect and trust you will value you and they are less likely to talk about you. Another part of your profile is equally important, the physical evidence part.
I have no idea how most of you can survive a week, let alone a year, with the way you go into places! Some of you don’t even hide the basics, like identifiable tattoos, unusual hair colors or cuts, or unique clothing styles. And let’s not get started on things like loose hair, fingerprints and distinctive odors! People remember what stands out and what makes you unique on the streets can also make you easily identifiable in the shadows. So take some time before you go in and clean yourself up, hide that hair and those defining body marks, put on some latex gloves and maybe give thought to wearing a ski mask or something else. What they can’t see, smell, record or pick up, can’t be used against you.
The last part of your profile is your reputation and it’s not about finishing the job, it’s about how you finished it. The two biggest baddest worst words on a run are “collateral damage.” That means you damaged or acquired something you shouldn’t have, used excessive force, or injured an innocent. This is the part of your profile that will get you less jobs or killed, or both, the fastest. It speaks of lack of professionalism, lack of trust and lack of intelligence. Collateral damage makes your run visible and makes people want to come after you. If you steal a secret formula from a lab, they will quickly try to recover from it. If you steal the formula and blow up their facility, they’ll come looking for you. So, chummers, play it cool, do what the Johnson wants and don’t take anything you aren’t supposed to or hurt anyone you can avoid. That doesn’t mean you can’t return fire with deadly force, just don’t go killing the cleaning lady who walks in on you.
Well, that about sums up what I wanted to talk about. To be brief, keep it clean. You’ll live longer that way and you just might even live long enough to retire, like me.
The Fox and the Hounds
By C. Paul “Granite” Douglas, © 2003
> It seems that Zoe isn’t the only one out there that has been digging up information on various people that work the shadows. This file was recently sent to me by a friend of a friend… evidently one of his comrades left an open comm unit in the office one day, and the team was able to overhear this vidphone interview between their fixer, who goes by the moniker “Fox,” and some unknown reporter. While some of the interview is disturbing, it is important for those working the shadows to know where they stand when it comes to their fixer. Not all of them are like Fox, but enough are close to make it worth a chummer’s time to ask themselves what the fixer is getting out of a deal. The questions aren’t important and they can be inferred from the answers Fox delivers so eloquently… What IS important is that Fox is an up-and-coming fixer on the Seattle scene, and has been hiring a lot of local talent lately. If you’re operating in Seattle, and don’t have a steady team to run with, then Fox is likely to contact you at some point to put together a team…
> Captain Chaos
My name… Well, you can call me “Fox.”
What I do is a public service. I take care of things…
Or at least I arrange for things to be taken care of for those people that cannot take care of things for themselves… for whatever reasons… mostly because they have to keep their hands clean. I dirty my hands instead. That is my lot. To go through life with dirtied hands.
Yes, you could call me a Fixer.
> I’ve worked for Fox many times. Yes, he can be a little “rough around the edges”, but he’s always played it straight with me. > Chipster
The upside is, what I do is very rewarding… Frag… why would I do this if there were no rewards. Nuyen flows through here like water from the tap. Hot and cold running nuyen. With that comes everything else a fragger could want for: women… rides… chips… whatever a chummer in the shadows desires. And to top that I tread the line a lot more than the poor slots I have running the shadows for me.
What line… Ahhh… the line between the ‘corps and the abyss of the streets. I walk in both worlds…
Oh, some of the ‘runners try to walk the line… but few can maintain the balance. After all, am I going to pay them enough to become independent? I think not…
As much as I hate to admit it, I need them… sure, they come a dime a dozen… where one is too green or too squeamish to pull a ‘run I need handled, there are ten behind that fragger just begging for the chance to make a name for themselves. That is the real pay for the runners… a rep’… I gotta admit, some of the ‘runners I’ve got are good–very good–but when they start getting as good as they are, that also means I gotta save ’em, not put them in harm’s way unless I really need them there. Would an ancient Roman senator have put their best gladiators out to fight to the death every time they hit the Coliseum? Frag no! Not if they were smart… you save those you have a real investment in until they are hungry for another kill. Till they can not make it without the next job. Until I really need them. It is a nasty cycle… but that is the world we live in…
Some of the drekheads over do it so much that they are back living in the streets just weeks or days after their last big paying job. They blow their nuyen on all manner of toys. I have known some ‘runners that had literally dozens and dozens of weapons, of every imaginable type and size, saved in special hermetically sealed, climate controlled, armored chambers hidden in their doss. And what tools did they take on the runs I gave them? The same old stand-by they had gotten shortly after they started making a life running the shadows. Who am I to complain if they waste their hard earned nuyen on such extravagances? I get a cut of that money most times as well! This is a wonderful business…
> While Fox does have a point, there are also those runners out there like myself that never use the same gun. After a mission is over, the cell phones, p-secs, pistols, and anything else used in the job that is replaceable gets chopped, sliced, diced, put in plastic bags and dropped in a dumpster or the lake. Sure, it adds to the cost of a run to have to purchase new equipment each time, but I’ve been running the shadows for more years than many of you, and it’s because I’m careful – there’s no trace back to me! > Fayd
I give it to them and they give it right back…
Well, what I mean by that is, most of these ‘runners never had a SIN and if they did have one, it isn’t safe for them to use anymore. So, they will come to me looking for some hard to find tidbit or other–and if they don’t come to me – well, who do you think supplies the local shops with the exotic bits and pieces that can be found if you know the right whoever about the right whatever?
The best ‘runners?
The best ones are the ones you grow from pups yourself. You grow them and mold them into whatever you see their potential to be. Manipulative? You could call it that. This is no kids game… this is deadly serious. Some are bangers or go-gangers, others just urchins and the refuse from the streets. Every now and then, someone that has taken a fall from one of the corps or even the occasional merc. I mold these drekheaded bangers and drop-outs into tools. Some are highly specialized tools. Some are more generic hammer types. But that is what they are: tools. Some Johnson comes to me with a contract,. I look at the contract and at the nuyen that has been negotiated, then I look in my “toolbox” and pick out the right set to get the job done…
> For those runners out there that aren’t a member of an established team, approaches such as those Fox uses can actually work to a runner’s advantage. If you only know your fellow teammates by reputation, or by working the occasional job with them, you don’t have to worry about compromising your safehouse or any little secrets you may have. > Anoni Mouse
Never… I never reveal the true value of a contract to my runners and any fixer worth his chips keeps information of that nature away from his runners. After all, this is a for-profit organization. The more I can squeeze the runners, the more rewarding the run will be for me… Certainly it’s fair… Look, do you think that any business that you frequent gives you the actual cost of their product? Of course not… If the slotted drones of our world knew how much the day to day necessities of their pitiful little lives actually cost, even the weakest of them would be rioting in the streets..
After comparing contract and payoff I look in my toolbox and decide what tools will be the most efficient to reach the contracted result.
What you have to realize is that this work is all about getting your hands dirty and sometimes the Gladiator you send into the Coliseum is meant to die there. Like I said, it is a nasty cycle and the runners are at the bottom of the food chain. It all has to do with what the movers in the hierarchy of the ‘corps need. Sometimes it is a sacrifice–sometimes it is more to the advantage of the runners. I have my own considerations as well and sometimes they are to the advantage of the runners and sometimes not… Then, of course, the runners have their own considerations. But that is none of my concern.
> What a swell guy! I thought fixers were supposed to watch over their runners!!? > Ignor Aunt
> Fixers are not meant to be your mothers or nursemaids… everyone should be aware of the fact that when it comes down to the wire, most people look out for Number One. As long as you know that, and how the person you’re dealing with will react, then you can expect when you are getting the shaft, and prepare accordingly. The job still has to get done, or you loose your reputation, but at least you can prepare for the worst. > Socio Pat
So I look into my toolbox; pick and choose the proper tools for the job at hand; and then off I send them to fix whatever problem I have been presented with. Sometimes the tools end up feeling a bit misused. That matters little. In the end, they need me even more than I need them and they are well aware that they can be replaced at a moments notice.
Most often what is needed is the one thing most runners are least capable of delivering: Invisibility.
No. I am not talking about the mystical kind. I mean the professional kind. I mean a run that is completely undetectable. The perfect run is the one when the target never knows that they were the subject of interest by anyone other than their own stock holders. There are precious few runners out there that truly comprehend this simple concept.
You will have to excuse me, I have a business call on my other line. No rest for the weary…
Hello… Mr. Johnson I presume. Yes, sir and how may I be of service today?
Cast Off Your SINs
by Chuck Walbourn, © 2002
SINs and Shadowrunners
In the world of Shadowrun, every legal citizen has a SIN, a System Identification Number. A SIN is a complete digital identity for a person, including work history, medical history, resume, references, personal information, credit and purchase history, driver’s license, and passport. When a credstick is checked and verified with some piece of biometric data from the bearer, databanks throughout the world are checked and cross-checked to ensure the identity of the bearer. The fabric of society in the Sixth World depends on the belief that a SIN is a foolproof digital identity.
Still, there are those who don’t possess SINs. Some are born without a SIN because they weren’t born in a standard hospital and their parents never registered them, most likely because they were not registered themselves. If these individuals are ever caught in a criminal act or are discovered in a corporate or government security check-point, they are assumed to be criminals and are treated as such, with no official existence and no civil rights. Without a SIN, you cannot get a legal job, purchase goods at a corner store, get medical treatment at a hospital, rent or buy property, or even leave the country. You don’t exist, and are at best an annoyance.
Others purposely erase their SIN, choosing to live in the shadows. Mega-corporations have very long arms, and if an individual really wants to be free from their influence, they cannot have a SIN or they will be found no matter where they go. A SIN could tie a runner to a dark and dangerous past, powerful enemies, or just make them easier to find and anonymity can be its own reward. Some choose to live in the shadows to be their own masters, others to hide from their past.
Without a SIN, an individual is unknown to the corps and governments of the world. They can go anywhere unseen and no one knows what they own, where they live, or what skills and talents they possess. Of course, freedom comes at a price. Being without a SIN is a criminal act in most countries, and with no legal recourse or civil rights, they can do anything they want. Lone Star will probably just assume you are a criminal and “disappear” you. A corporation may just be looking for a subject in their latest “black” research project, and if you don’t exist, they can’t be breaking any laws.
Shadowrunners without a SIN are the perfect deniable asset, and the privacy that goes with that status is greatly valued by fixers. All Shadowrun Missions characters are SINless – a select few may opt to have fictional backgrounds and forged credsticks created. Most make do with certified credsticks, or temporary forgeries supplied as needed by a fixer. As such, you don’t have legal employment and can’t spend too much time in highly patrol areas or corporate enclaves. You don’t want to be caught and branded with a criminal SIN, something much harder to erase than even a SIN you were born with. At some point you might be able to acquire a permanent forged credstick, but remember that when living in the shadows anything permanent can be a liability.
How you ended up SINless is up to you. The Sprawl has large uncontrolled areas of the city where the poor and SINless live, ignored by Lone Star and outside the concern of the corps. Perhaps you escaped into the shadows to escape your past, and paid to have your SIN “erased”, or maybe you just got tired of life as a wage-slave and the shadows were your only real option. Officially, you may have died or your identity could have been discovered to be a ‘forgery’ and tagged as invalid. Your photo, your DNA, your fingerprint, all the things that could tie your real SIN to you have been destroyed for better or worse.
There is only so far you can get with certified credsticks. In the rougher parts of the Sprawl, the local Stuffer Shack or landlord will take whatever payment you can provide. Fixers will insist on non-traceable currency for purchasing black-market goods and your contacts won’t want sizeable chunks of credit in any traceable form either. Still, using certified credsticks will get you noticed in some parts of town. In the more luxurious (and highly controlled) parts of the ‘plex, nuyen won’t be enough. A certified credstick isn’t ID, and in a corporate arcology using a certified credstick to buy anything will get you noticed, and quick. Certified credsticks can be used for some Matrix transactions, but you might require a valid ID to go with the money. And to leave the country, take a flight, or pass through many security check-points, you’ll need an ID with permits for gear, being magically active, or many kinds of cyber- and bioware.
Your fixer can sometimes arrange for temporary IDs if given enough time, but they aren’t likely to stand up to a lot of scrutiny over a long period of time. Permanent forged credsticks can be obtained through scenarios or black market contacts with various transaction limits and ratings. Remember that a forged credstick must have a valid SIN (or at least appear to have a valid SIN) to pass the validation test. Creating a complete digital history of a person with all the detail required is a Herculean task for any individual, so shadowrunners will normally have to live with something less than perfect – unless they are lucky enough to hook up with one of the few organizations in town that specialize in such projects. Often that means “borrowing” the SIN of another, with the decker making key changes in the history to match the biometric details of the bearer. The SIN may really belong to a person who is already deceased, someone who is out of circulation, or maybe someone just on vacation for a few days. The more you use a forged credstick the more likely it is to be noticed as fake, and each transaction you make with it goes into the purchase history and will be noticed by someone, somewhere, eventually.
Remember that good, hard-to-notice, forged ID is a runner’s best friend, but it isn’t going to stand up to a full inspection by a Lone Star team if they bring you in and do a full body scan, medical workup, DNA profile, fingerprint and voice print analysis, and take the time to run down all the details on that credstick you are carrying. You are still gone, chummer, unless a corp decides to bail you out. Of course, a corporation can usually arrange whatever forged documents are required for their purposes to stand up to most any inquiry, but you’ll have to give them a lot of personal and permanent biometric information in the process.