I’m the kind of GM who never likes telling their players how to play their characters. As the years have gone on though, I find that usually, I’m the one running the games. On the occasion that I do get to play though, I tend to the group leader type, and one of the things I always like to stress to the other players, is don’t kill the security guards on a run. Sometimes this gets met with a certain amount of confusion. In many other games, this isn’t the standard. In Shadowrun though, it really pays to look at the big picture, the grand scheme. Namely, how will the corporations perceive an action, most notably, how does that action effect their bottom line. The corporations don’t think like people, they think like machines, and all that matters is money. So lets take a look at an example.
You and your chummers get hired by a Johnson to snag the design schematics for some cool piece of new tech. Research and Development is being done semi-covertly at an some office complex. Physical and Magical security on the place is low because they don’t want to draw attention to the place, but their matrix security is pretty tight. Anti-WiFi paint on the whole building, with ingoing/outgoing on a system admin approved burst transmissions so Corp HQ gets timely updates. You’ve got a good hacker but he’s the stay at home type and your crew doesn’t want to babysit a non-combatant anyways. If you can get a small group in though, you can straight run a cable from broadcast router to the interoffice router and the hackers in like a kid in a candy store.
You slip past the parking lot guard, bypass the card locks, head to the server room, and everything is going smooth, when someone trips a newly installed motion sensor that wasn’t on your security briefing. One of the office guards decides to check out. It’s a new system, probably just a bit buggy. He’s here every night and this job is pretty boring. Nothing ever happens. He rounds the corner, and comes face to face with your ork street sam and his Predator III. Here is where we have to examine our options.
Option one: the Street Sam pistol whips the guard laying him out, pops him in the face with a capsule round and some nice knock out juice, or takes him out with a nice spinning heel kick. Either way you shake it, the guard is unconscious, the run proceeds as planned, and your hackers already mailing the file to the Johnson before you hit the your car waiting on a side street.
The aftermath: Corporate security guard wakes up. Ashamed, embarrassed, possibly suffering a light concussion. He calls in the security breach, and the everyone goes on high alert. They start looking for what got taken, and can’t seem to find anything out of place. Corporate calls in medical personal to have the guard checked out, seems to be fine, if not a bit shaken. “Are they sure he saw someone? Maybe he fell and imagined it? We went over everything twice, nothings wrong. If you where checking out an alarm trip, why didn’t you call for support? This is going as a negative on your record.” Poor guard gets a demotion for not following standard procedure. Even if it was obvious there was a breach, at best your looking at this poor guard getting a few days off sick leave and a couple of aspirin. Maybe some job stress follow up from a coporate shrink when he developes PTSD and night terrors.
Option two: It’s not your day chummer, and the guard takes a full metal jacketed pistol round to the face. Blood all of the hallway wall. Now, even if the rest of the run goes without a hitch, someone is definitely going to know someone was here.
The aftermath: More corporate security has to come in and examine the crime scene. Everything gets double and triple checked. The entire facility gets shut down for 2 days while security is gone over with a fine tooth come. It doesn’t end there either. Now the corporation has to pay out death benefits for life to a widow and kid as per the guards contract under the violent death clause. Human Resources has to task another security guard to take his position from here on out, which means hiring a new guy as well. Even after corporate resources to train him, he still won’t have the on the job experience that the other guy had. Corporate sends a shrink to the facility to perform group grief management sessions. The techs doing research and development aren’t as anxious to come to work any more, not after finding out someone died there. For at least the next several months, productivity is down 25%. The other security guards are mad at loosing a friend, vowing that if they ever get a tripped alarm, there calling out to everyone, and checking out the situation only when back up arrives, with there guns drawn, and if they don’t know the guy, there going to shoot first an ask questions later.
Note the difference in the chain of events that has the potential to lead to further complications at a later time. The amount of resources the company expends to re-place just one guard, and the extra level of attentiveness and detail it brought on the entire run.
Even in a non-security situation, say the run was to snag back something from a group of gangers. If you knock them out, there going to be pissed, pride hurt, and vowing revenge. There also not going to tell anyone they don’t have to what happened. It would make them look weak, hurt their street cred, and give other gangs the idea that anyone can just muscle in on them. If you instead whack all those gangers, you might just make the evening news. People are going to notice that the gang is gone and their turf is up for grabs. The ripples from that alone can reach further than you would think. Maybe one of them was the nephew of a Yakuza enforcer who decides to make it his personal mission in life to find you. When he does find you, he’s going to take a bamboo splinter and tattoo his nephews name to the back of your iris before he guts you with an old butcher knife. Maybe the gang that steps in to the old gangs turf is Triad backed instead of Yakuza backed and this little incident starts off a small war.
How many innocents will get hurt in the crossfire? Maybe one of them is the poor security guards wife, who had to move to a lower class neighborhood because the life insurance wasn’t enough to afford there two bedroom condo payments. The poor guy was just doing night security while she finished school. He barely even qualified on the target range. Definitely never shot his gun in combat. Until one slip up took him away from her. What a horrible person you are.
The life of a Shadowrunner is filled with many of these decisions. Sometimes they hit you at a moments notice, and your only option is to react. Some of them though, you can plan ahead for, and be prepared. Your life is a life of quiet, unrecognized, unheard, head down, doesn’t exist solitude. Every drop of rain makes a ripple in the puddles of water. Your presence should be the one at the edge, barely scene, never felt, never noticed.