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When you fail to apply critical thinking and it costs 1500 dollars.
So the guy calls and said a screen on one of his POS terminals isn't very responsive. I said ok is it dirty? He said no. Ok, let's calibrate it. (These people were using Windows Xp in 2017, that should tell you the condition of the equipment) . Walk him through how to calibrate it. Nope, still barely responsive. But, he said, there's stuff caked all over the screen (contrary to it not being dirty earlier)
Pos screens are nasty, considering the environment they're in.
Ok, so wipe it down with a damp towel.20 minutes later I get another call, him yelling and swearing about its not working at all, not turning on.
"Won't it damage it?"
"Nah, posiflex terminals have water resistant screens. At the trade shows they'll sometimes have water dripping on the screen to demonstrate that. Screen cleaner would be best but damp towel will work"
"Ok". Hangs up.
So I stumble across to my apartment and hop on TeamViewer, can't see it on the network and I start the whole tracing the power cable routine and he goes i put it through the dishwasher and it just stopped working!
I said, verbatim "you ran a computer through a f*cking dishwasher??" (When I relayed this to my boss the next monday, he didn't even care cause it was so stupid. Swearing at customers isn't professional or ok but this one was kind of an ok one)A quick check of his sales report and table seating chart determined that was a lie, they were dead and had been all day.
"You said it was water resistant!"
"I said wipe the screen down! Water resistant is NOT the same as waterproof dude. I mean...."
"Well, I need a new terminal now, so send someone. We are packed and can't go without it"
I told him even if I left right then, going to the office, imaging a new terminal and driving the two hours to get to the site would put me there well after they close and the other three terminals they had should work just fine, especially when the time clock showed just two servers on.
"Well, its under warranty, right"After a few moment of awkward silence.. .
"No, if it has windows XP its well out of warranty at this point, plus your corporate office has to ok all equipment purchases" (i told him this rather than cause further chaos by telling him doing something that freaking stupid voids warranties)
"You better stay out of xyzville" ( a smaller town that I would never ever go to on my own free will anyways)::click::
Epilogue: I went back to the bar and kept drinking.
Edit: if you're going to tell me how unprofessional or wrong I am, save your breath. I don't care. I am rough around the edges and I don't take shit from anyone but I also will go through the gates of hell for my clients, even if it means being up all night etc. There's a difference between a customer upset because they have a packed restaurant and their credit cards stopped working and a customer who thinks they're gonna call me up and talk to me like I'm a bitch. One I empathize with and the other I'm gonna tell to screw off.
Edit 2: per requests, stay tuned for a collection of short stories :D
On High Threat Response Teams
Here's some longish text on how I thought to make "HTR shows up" a bit more colorful and rooted in the world beyond the short sentence below. It's not meant as fixed position, but a collection of thoughts that I considered worthwhile to discuss or consider.
„If you overdo it, then HTR comes. They are made to take out Runners and other high threats of the Sixth World!”
We say this – but what does it mean in practice? First let me state this: HTR does not really need rules, they are the hammer that comes when Runners tripped the alarm and didn’t get to get out. On the other hand, have them stick to the rules – or at least the illusion of rules – can improve the game, as the Runners do get a fighting chance, and they might not feel cheated. And for RP of the world alone I find it better to have this Special Police Force (of the appropriate Flavour, be it AAA-Corp, Security-Contractor or national) come in as more than A Black Wall of Police Goons.
Runners are not the only high threat these SWAT-groups are trained for and that they handle. There are awakened Critters that do bad things, crazy Gangers that are fully cybered up, some mages need to be taken down, and very classic crime-busts of very dangerous people still do happen. Yes, and individual and groups of Runners might need to get tackled. That is where High Threat Response Teams come in.
This here is a thought on what a HTR-response looks like, what they might do regarding abilities, and what they might tactically pull off to create the impression of being Scary Professionals That Need To Be Evaded. Personally, that’s important to me, because as Runners you sooner or later start to get the impression that they, as a group, are actually pretty high up in the Food Chain. Which is very true in many ways – and in other ways that matter a lot it’s dead wrong. Deadly Wrong.
HTR-Teams are organised in Squads. The whole Detachment consists of several Squads (see below).
Each Squad consists of four Operatives that are all “standard operatives”, but have a special role assigned in addition. They do not necessarily look apart, but they make sure they as team can do their job.
I’ll keep the rules light (and based on 5e), where they are not given but still required you can use the NPC listings professional rating 4 or 5. Based on the descriptions, I’d judge “standard HTR” be a bit below what is listed in 5, but that distinction does not really matter here, so just take rating 5 as guideline.
They all roll 10+3d6 for Initiative. If you roll at all and not just give them three passes with an Ini in the “low 20s”.
What is very important to note: HTR is not a bunch of goons or some reinforcements. They never come as surprise. It is known they come, i.e. with alarms, notifications, people cordoning off the area etc, and it is known they are a – final or temporary – failure state of the Run that you evade or lose against. If you want a good example, think the Lobby Scene in “The Matrix”: First, the Rent-a-Cops are killed. Then come hardened on-site reinforcements. And after that The Agents show up to clean the issue up, and that is what HTR is in Shadowrun.
Equipment and roles:
Weapons: The “normal load” is that they carry an Ares Alpha or Yamaha Raiden as main gun. The Alpha has the underbarrel grenade launcher to fling “funny things” at a moment’s notice. They carry SMG, a small automatic pistols as sidearm, or a heavy pistol as sidearm (depending on how loaded you see the operator). Scattered over the Squad, they have at least two of each grenade from Core.
They use electrical ammo for stun and vs. vehicles/drones, Flechette vs. soft targets (mages or drug dealers getting surprised) or APDS. No, they do not carry standard ammo. An target wearing heavy armor is seen as “threatening intent”, therefore, APDS is by definition justified.
Armor: They are armored with full body armor with a rating of 18; chemically sealed. The helmets/magic/’ware that gives them the usual sight- and hearing enhancements (IR, low-light), while blocking distractions as loud noises and bright flashes. The helmet/suit also comes with a gas mask, built in Comlink and classic radio communication.
Stats, ‘ware and Magic: You can assume that all characters are superhuman in some way or another due to Magic or at least a bit of Cyberware. All stats required to be a proper special-forces person (AGI, STR, BOD, REA) are at least near or on the racial maximum with at least another +2 from other sources added. Assume that WIL is 4 to 6, just use 5 if it matters.
Matrix security: Assume the people are not stupid and have most of their Wifi off or their personal stuff works without Wifi being on. Internal routers, external cabling in their armor (yeah, yeah, nothing like that in RAW, I know, I do not care), just a +1 in skill/stat to make up for the lost bonus… whatever. Wherever it matters, i.e. communication (remember: the have a radio-fallback?) assume their stuff is slaved in a PAN with a rating 6 Comlink as master that acts as firewall.
Also assume they, as the whole Detachment, have at least two Deckers near to provide Matrix support and spot hostile Deckers.
· Breacher for B&E. Instead of the sidearm, this one carries an Enfield shotgun, loaded with “breaching ammo”, to open doors and blow out hinges. This one carries a crowbar, has some shaped charges and packs of C4 and exploding foam to open all kinds of doors, windows, vents, even make holes in some walls. Knows about alarms, traps, etc.
· Heavy. Carries a MG, at least the LMG from Core; if you put a strong Orc or Troll in this role, and have supplements, feel free to use something heavier. Carries also some more grenades.
· Drone/Technician. This one knows stuff and has toys. At least two smaller drones for in-site recon, an endoscopic camera, knows lockpicking of all kinds of locks (silent entry), alarms, hardware, …
· Magespotter OR Mage. If the squad features a full-on mage, you’ll have someone who is good with an assault rifle. There won’t be damage spells (unless going vs. a spirit or so), but this mage is going to cancel magic, cast protections, invisibility – basically as your Runner-buddy would. If there is no full mage, which most squads do not have, then you have at least one operator who is really trained in spotting magic, magical effects, and primarily is going to engage against that. Geek the mage first? This is this guy’s agenda, and he shoots and explodes.
They do not necessarily look apart, but they make sure they as team can do their job.
Skills and Knowledge
Assume that everything a squad of Special Forces needs in that squad is available to them. They are trained police-people, and as such all softer-skills required are rolled with at least 12 dice. Atheletics, Medicine, technical, explosives. You name it. All important skills for such a group, namely shooting, stabbing, and other things that suppress people, are rolled with 18 dice. Intimidation as well, that is what these people do.
Also assume that the appropriate knowledge skills are ready. If it is in a catalogue, they know that ‘ware or piece of technical gizmo. They usually are not mages, but they know about magic and howit affects them in their life. They will know about the schools and the 50 most common spells and what they do. They picked up some more obscure stuff. They know about drones, guns and deckers. They know tricks. They know about the most common critters of the world. They know enough about Spirits for not being surprised if a spirit uses some stock-powers. All those pools are also rolled with at least 12 dice, but as GM you can also rule that if the Runners use “stock stuff”, the HTR is going to pick up on it.
Do not really play skills and knowledge as individual skills, treat these people as the squad that they are. Oh, and they have external experts around that they can call via Comlin and that might watch the livefeed of a Squad going in as Extra Eyes and Experts. Do not treat them as “isolated”, because they are not.
A HTR-Team is not just the Squads. They also bring in own support that’s not part of the squad. You can count on at least a detachment of three to five snipers + spotters that scatter around and check and cover the environment. The snipers obviously snipe, but the spotters also have assault rifles ready, some might even sport a grenade launcher or missile launchers, guided as well as unguided and as such can effectively work against vehicles or aircraft that show up.
Each HTR also comes with aircraft-support. Count at least one helicopter, possibly more, and also possible VTLs.
The team will arrive flying or in APCs. All flying and driving (and swimming) vehicles a HTR comes in has machine guns (miniguns if you have the supplement or even one of the Ares Redline Lasers) and access to missiles for self-defence and support.
Each HTR might have special persons with them. Riggers who have access to recon and fighting drones. Do count on drones being in the air and on the ground if a HTR is deployed. Do count on at least one or two Deckers. Maybe they have a mage or two with them (not with the Squads). Maybe they bring 1d6 attack dogs with them, ready to be unleashed and when you’re lucky, they do not have trained Hellhounds.
And do not forget that a serious HTR will also have a bunch of normal police operators with them, that are also around and do normal police-stuff. Do not this does not mean a bunch of people block roads, you talk about dozens of normal police-people, that also are at least decently-competent and can have SMGs, shotguns and assault rifles that support the HTR and cover the outside area.
HTR-responses come in several levels of severity, based on what group is called and how serious the offense is. Do remember: A HTR is a hammer from the system itself to end whatever threat there was located. A trope of Cyberpunk is that you cannot really, if all is said and done, fight the system because it is inhumanely oppressive – and a HTR is the violent side of this.
This is a full HTR-Detachment:
· A normal response consists of four squads, a snipers or two on reserve.This happens if the situation seems serious, but it does not seem too bad. Maybe a cybered up ganger makes some noise, or a drug bust for some dealers needs to happen. Routine.
· A stronger response calls for six squads, more sniper support, matrix support, a rigger or two, and flying vehicles. This is the normal response for things that seem serious. Like a team of Runners got caught redhanded and they do not seem too dangers and have not yet shot a lot up.
· A massive response is eight squads, strong sniper support and all the extra stuff the GM can think of.
· If there is serious mojo going down, like a bunch of Adepts monowired their way through a mall and then a Red Samurai or you really cause a fuss in Downtown, or the first line of HTR got a punch in the face, then there is nothing keeping the system from mobilising two or more whole Detachments. This is the crackdown that is simply coming.
Now, before it gets ugly, we need to drop one word for GMs: Because HTR is “the system hammering down the Runners”, they always need to be a projected threat. That means you always need to tell your players they are coming. While you might think to be “realistic” that a silent alarm is triggered, the PCs did not notice the camera through which their threat is assessed, and then the HTR comes in silently, you neglect you set up a Total Party Kill and are narratively boring. No, a HTR always needs to be projected in some way.
An alarm got triggered. A warning flashes in. A NPC screams “We just have to hold them, HTR is on the way!” A Helicopter and a VTOL are heard zipping over. PCs must be told this hammer is coming their way and it needs to be told again. If you want to give them a choice to leave is up to you and depends on the situation and how they played this. But you need to tell them about the threat. And only then the HTR can enter.
First: they come in hard, fast and ruthless. You cannot confuse them with what they bring. They bring flashbangs, tear gas etc, this means those things do not do anything against them.
Second, they are trained for just this occasion, for just the threat you are. If it is a trick from the book, you won’t confuse them. They know illusions, they know trideo-projectors, they know fake walls, they know magical walls that eat bullets. They know what weapons do what. Everyone can recognize magic in this world, and these people are trained to handle just that. They know illusions, they know fireballs, they know how to take out mages and to spot their shenanigans.
They know about mind magic and all other kinds of stuff. They are trained and know how their peers are supposed to act, and when they act out of line. They are trained to switch to radio if Comlinks are cut, they know how 100 select, short commands for the 100 most likely scenarios and 20 more for the most dangerous ones. They know how to communicate with gestures. They know how to retreat when they notice they get into something they can neither judge nor clear with a few shots.
If possible, they will do recon. They always will do recon, sneak in, then explode into the room. They will have covered the perimeter with their drones, snipers, helicopters, vehicles, and normal police forces.
Modes of operation on any team of special forces
· Suppression – Come in hard, intimidate into people giving up and taking them down non-lethally. This involves flashbangs, blown out doors and windows, smoke, and a lot of screaming. “POLICE! DOWN!” cranked up to 11. You give up or they escalate! This is actually their intended mode of operation: Take down the hostile drug dealers, political enemies or drunk Cyber-Ork fast and clean, then leave. Collateral damage is evaded as much as possible. Do note this very likely what they use if two of their teams go against some drug-appartment, this is not how they engage Shadowrrunners. For Shadowrunners, they start on one of the other two tiers. Depending on how the Runners presented themselves and how much heavily illegal items they have shown the HTR might start on Neutralise Plus.
· Neutralize – if someone does not go down or looks “too dangerous” (armoured and armed). They might shoot selected targets in the face, use an exploding grenade, lay suppressive fire. They’ll scream about this as well, this is basically the Worf Effect in action: If a room full of goons does not want to surrender, they might reconsider if the most powerful-looking guy in the room is riddled with APDS-sized holes and if the mage took two burst of 9 electrical rounds to the face. Do you want to submit now, eh? This violence is still precise and calculated and collateral damage to property and people is to limit.
· Neutralise Plus – you enter a lobby full of slashed guards and spot the residue of Fireballs. You know you’re against Runners who’re scary. You pull all the stops, and the threat as to end here, now, before it gets dangerous. Collateral damages becomes an acceptable option. You will face grenades, blown-through walls, suppressive fire and a lot of fire in general. This is it, and they are there to drop you. Extra equipment for escalation (see below) might come into play.
· Beyond HTR. Let us come to that one later, ok?
They do recon, then explode into a room. If possible, they come from different entry-points. Some bust the doors, others the windows, while third group climbed a dumpster and come in from the first story. They do it in a way that at least two squads can assist each other on very short notice. So if you go into a fight, you always at least face two squads at once.
If they come in, they do with flashbangs and smoke, and whatever else in distraction the GM thinks is appropriate. They do scream a lot, GM, feel free to have them roll for Intimidate with 18 dice, because that is really what they do, what they are trained for. They are the black block of kickass equipped system-goons that ooze “We are professionals!” (because that is what they trained for and what they are) and chances are that even seasoned Runners have already faced a full HTR-response. And even less Runners have gotten so used to it being immune to such a massive show of force that’s only there to take you down to the LoneStar-Compound. Or rather directly to the chop-doc and then the crematorium. Show the players that this prepared opposition isn’t what they usually face; this is not the three Red Samurais that you knew were there, this is The Dystopian System Itself given shape.
They know they might not get the full team with their flashbangs, smoke, CS gas, whatever, but if they get one of four super-criminals to get confused, that’s already a win worth the effort. A mage with teary eyes is not casting fireballs.
They will escalate their mode of operation one step if resistance is encountered. If one of them is getting injured, they escalate to Neutralise Plus, if they cannot break the resistance that squad immediately retreats and they re-group for a harder attack (in game-terms the Runners get a last chance to try to get out or to surrender).
By the way: they do retreat and do not fight it out if they cannot get through at once. They do not die and they know that they have time and the force on their side.
GMs remember: HTR is the hammer which is there to clobber the PCs and it is the System itself that strikes back with full force. They have been projected, and whatever you think about “balance” and “fairness” is off. They are there to win, fast and hard. They will do the most ruthless, efficient tactics you can think of, and you need to play to the maximum of your tactical abilities here. The PCs have Edge. Don’t worry, you won’t kill them, even if you do.
As an example imagine a room with cover. The Runners dove behind the cover and now fire at the HTR, trying to hold them back, while also making room for an escape or to still achieve their goal. They have a mage. There’s some drone.
Here’s what the HTR might do: One might lay suppressive fire. Two throw or shoot grenades behind the cover. Three of the guys take advantage of their ADPS and fire right through the cover. Two more delay their actions and wait for the “opportune moment”, while an external Rigger brings a fighting-drone in position.
Now, what’s Bob the Runner going to do? Stay in cover and take the blast from at least one grenade, while also taking the “18 minus 6”?
The team will also smartly decide if it’s better to hammer out the strongest target or use two people to keep it busy and pick off the weaker ones first. Why risk dropping round after round into the dermal plating of Mr. Fight-Machine, while the RiggeDeckeMage/Face does something if you can just keep Mr. Fight-Machine busy and take out the rest of the team with less effort? Point is: these HTR-folks know tactics and are there to win.
The PCs should know this and going flat down, arms stretched away and screaming “I surrender!” is a legit way out. (See further down on what to do then)
Escalation: Say you got the HTR to go to Neutralise Plus, but they think they need more pressure. You behaved really like the terrorists that the media makes the Runners out to be.
Use the VTOLs and sniper-positions shoot missiles and rockets. The HTR-people will pick up assault cannons and switch tear gas out for Seven-7. They summon in a few spirits themselves. They let go of a pack of Hellhounds. They VTOL-minigun the whole position of the hostile team – through the walls. The ArmTech MGL-12 can fire 12 grenades in semi auto mode. No one said you could not just empty two of them towards your enemies, then reload and do it again.
Beyond HTR. While talking about Escalation, let us talk about the fourth mode the team can operate in. Say you managed to push against the tide that this HTR is. The system cannot have this and, well, did you notice that our rule-system for Shadowrun ends with hand grenades, .50-cal-machine guns, 20-mm-single-shooters and maybe some small-ish missile? Yes, that is exactly where the real stuff the military only starts. If push comes to shove, The System will use stuff against you that we do not have rules for.
Wer’re talking 30 and 40 mm autocannons with airburst and armour piercing ammunition. 155 mm howitzers. Hellfire missiles that are designed to blow up main battle tanks and bunkers. 500-kg-bombs dropped from drones. This is a world where corporations have weapons of mass destruction and where Thor Shots are dropped from orbit. Screw up an HTR-team and they will stuff like this against you. If you need rules, just assume the corps and nations have stuff reserved that starts at 30p and a penetration of -10, ok?
So here’s it in very clear words: Facing HTR is not internal or external reinforcements on Run. HTR is a fail state of a Run. If they come, this part of the Run is simply over. Evade the HTR (and maybe come back with another plan?) – or lose. It is simple as that. HTR is an avalanche that you can only evade by “being somewhere else”.
Variation: Now, you can use variation by adding metatypes or more or less magical characters based on where the HTR is coming from. And who does not want a Troll-Breacher going on with even more Str and a set of dermal plating of his own?
Now the big question: “Won’t all that lead to a total party kill?” or “I cannot arrest my PCs, because being in jail is the same as killing them!” Let us look at how your characters can
Lose a fight – and still stay player characters:
“But”, you say, “isn’t all this too dangerous and only leads to the grave, or, in the final meaning nearly the same, the justice system that ends or at least fundamentally changes the characters?” To this there are two replies: First, “yeah, so what? That’s the game, the dice roll as they roll and the situations evolve as they do. This includes characters ending and changing”. But I do understand that’s not all tables or players want or that this isn’t THIS situation that leads to such an ending.
So let’s talk how you can fasten the thumbscrews, but still keep the team around.
First, on Death: PCs, at least in 5th, have the Edge-mechanic that lets them burn Edge and still stay alive, no matter the injury. So if the PC got it with Seven-7, a flamethrower, a spray of bullets and a thrown tiger all at once and is deader than dead, the player can just say “aww, yeah, I burn an Edge” – and the character will make it. GM, you’re off the heat.
Also, a character isn’t dead until the GM says so. An attack is not killing a PC until the GM says so. 10 points damage over what the PC can take? Until the GM says so, it can be one point under what it can take, or something you can still heal, or 100 over. So if you as GM think it is warranted to not say “You take 18 damage” it has not happened. This isn’t even “cheating”: the GM runs the game, and the rules and dice and the results of that are all a framework for the GM to tell the story that everyone enjoys. “The PC might die, so we cannot do X” is not an excuse, there are far too many screws (not the one on the thumbs) that the PCs and GM can screw around with before the final thing is said.
Yes, “Bob, are you ok your character dies now?” is a legit question to ask on the table. You do not have to, but if you think the situation (and Bob) warrants it, it’s perfectly ok to “somehow deal with it”.
This is actually an own discussion on “PCs dying” but for now the answer “Do not be afraid to put in a dangerous foe” is all that we need here.
So the PCs survive, but still get arrested. Or the PCs do the smart thing and surrender and get arrested. Or the PCs get shot down and are arrested by HTR. What’s next?
The PC goes to jail. Bam, end of character, right? Go to jail, lose your Cyberware, get your Bioware ripped out, your equipment and drone be registered, spent years in the concrete cell, lose all you have, right? Wrong.
A few Runners got busted and that they got busted goes over at least half a dozen high-level chairs full of corrupt people in a corrupt system that are ready to milk a few Runners for a few Runs for the sake of twisting something to let them go free. If if that is not enough, they have bosses as well that might want to seize the opportunity – and if that is not enough, the bosses have bosses as well, someone might draw the “Get a bunch of Runners for cheap into your hands”-card.
All kinds of people need all kinds of dirty help. And a bunch of Runners being put into the legal system where, let us be honest, very little is to gain from prosecuting them by the book. Come on, dudes and gals, use that. Make them do a Run or two for you that benefits you greatly or evades some nasty harm from you and your dirty deeds and you just have to shuffle them out and maybe someone else in and all is fine.
Everyone is happy. You. The Runners. The system because it only cares that “someone” takes a fall and not who exactly (and sometimes it does not even required “someone” to take a fall at all). And the PCs who now can go on with their characters having a cool new backstory – and a new connection or two if all went well.
“Bob, are you ok with your character going to jail now and his story ending” is also a perfectly legit question.
There always are ways out.
And if all that results in you being able to play the world to a greater degree of consequence, meaning that screwing up can mean Runners being killed, or arrested, and a serious HTR showing up – then that’s as good as one can ask for.