Friday, 25 August 2017

Cyberpunk 2020 Single-Player: Session 1 - Hollywood Whore Part 2

This is part two of the Actual Play Report for the first session in my Cyberpunk 2020 Single-Player campaign.  You can find Part 1 here.  Without further ado, let's dive back into the Cyberpunk future of 2060 and find out what Aki gets herself into.  When we left our hero she had just gotten through dispatching two goons.  That had tried to drag away a masked woman who had tried to ask Aki for help.

A little late to the party Szychta Granica's bartender snatched up the sawed-off shotgun, that he kept under the bar.  The bulky man levelled the weapon towards Aki.  "You need to leave."  He moved the gun slightly towards the masked woman.  "Take your friend with you." he added.  "Sure thing." Aki said, a quiet day of drinking ruined by the two men she had just killed.  One dispatched by her trusty Kukri knife, the other by a back-breaking Judo throw.  She glanced back at the masked woman, gently wrapping a hand around her wrist.  The woman allowed herself to be led out of Granica, outside into the light rain.  "I guess we ought to go somewhere to talk." offered Aki as she started walking down the street.  Having let go of the masked woman's wrist since, she figured enough time had passed for the shock to have worn off.  She glanced back in her charge's direction.  Who stood still.  Her head moving in such a way that even with the breath mask, Aki could tell she was weighing her options.  Whether to stay with this stranger who had just killed two men as if it was nothing.  Or to take her chances on her own in the urban jungle of the Sprawl.  She looked back to Aki, clearly having made up her mind.  The pair walked off in the rain together.  Aki leading the way.


Aki bought two cups of soy joe, at an outdoor coffee shop she knew in the area.  It was a ramshackle affair, set up in an abandoned parking lot.  Stolen tables covered by ripped parasols that did a somewhat adequate job at keeping the rain off.  The ersatz coffee was passable, but was sewage compared to the real thing.  She set one of the recyclable paper cups in front of her masked companion and sat down at her side of the table.  "So you said you needed my help with something?"
"Y-y-yes.  I need to get in touch with someone." the mask still distorting her speech.
"This someone have a name?"
"T-Tanya Sandhu."
"Never heard of her."
"She's a Manager at Volante Media Global."
That last part gave Aki something to think about.  Volante was an International Media Corporation, with branches all over the damn world.  That this stuttering slip of a girl in a breath mask and hobo chic knew someone involved with them, was somewhat unbelievable.
"She's the one that you said could pay, right?" Aki arched her eyebrow.
"Y-y-yes.  I-I-I'm sure she will.  I just need to get in touch with her." the girl shook like a leaf, under Aki's interrogation.

Aki still doubted the validity of the girl's promise of money.  On the other hand though what did she stand to lose other than her time.  Besides money had been tight around the apartment for a while now.  If the girl's story checked out and this Tanya Sandhu would really pay, it'd be easy money in Aki's pocket.  Now she just had to figure out a way to get in touch with her.  If Volante was anything like her old employers at Caine Processed Foods, they would have a website with contact information.  Aki pulled out her phone and searched the Volante Media Global website.  The site itself was easy enough to find.  Navigating it was another story.  For a company that was supposed to provide their customers with information, their website left something to be desired.  The layout was horrible, it took Aki forever to find the page on contact information.  Even when she did find the page, she couldn't figure out the byzantine methods of contact.  Volante Media Global was one of those companies that couldn't just a have one simple way of getting in contact with them.
(On the mechanical side of things, I had the player roll a Difficult Intelligence Check to find a way to contact Tanya Sandhu.  I thought if I had just said Aki immediately found the information, it would have been too easy.  Unfortunately for use the player didn't roll low enough and failed the roll).

Frustrated by the seemingly impossible task of finding a number for this Tanya Sandhu.  Aki put her phone away.  She'd already wasted enough time on this wild goose chase.  She wasn't going to get anywhere without a further investment of time and cred.  What if it turned out that this Sandhu woman didn't pay like the girl said she would?  It was too much risk for the word of a nervous wreck in a breath mask.  "Well sorry kid, I gave it my best.  Looks like you're on your own now."
"What?"
"I can't get in contact with Sandhu character and you clearly don't have any money.  Which means I've wasted more than enough time on you.  See you around."
With that Aki got up from the table, her ears deaf to the distorted pleas of the girl.  She left the parking lot that'd been turned into a coffee shop and walked off into the rain.

Hask Mamund, skin trader and a former
friend with benefits of Aki's.  Until he
wanted to be more than just friends.
Namely her pimp.
Aki made her way back towards her apartment.  The potential job had turned out to be a bust, so she was going home empty-handed.  Hopefully by the time she got home, Rinchen would have finished up her meeting with her client.  Then they could spend the rest of the day together.  Her daydream was interrupted by her cellphone ringing.  The screen said unknown caller, she pushed a button and held the phone up to her ear.
"Who is this?"
"Aki, baby long time no see." said the honeyed voice on the other end.
It was a voice she instantly recognized, one she had hoped to never hear again as long as she lived.  It was the voice of Hask Mamund.  An icy feeling crept up the back of Aki's neck as only one fearful thought demanded in her mind.  How the hell did he get this number?

She'd met Hask not that long after she and Rinchen had left the Company.  It had been a very stressful time for her, they hadn't exactly settled into life on the street.  She had constantly had to play the role of protector in the relationship and it had begun to get to her.  She'd started having one night stands on the side.  Always with men, she'd considered sleeping with any woman other than Rinchen to be cheating.   Hask had started out just like many of the other one night stands.  Just a way to relieve stress, with no strings attached.  Until the one night became multiple nights and no strings attached became a goddamn puppet show.  If she'd known that Hask was a pimp, she never would've never have gotten involved with him.  She'd only found out one night after sex, when he'd propositioned her.  Work for him and she'd earn.  She'd gotten dressed that faster than she'd ever in her life.  If that was the end of the story, it would have just been an unpleasant episode in her life.  That she would have gotten over.  A couple of days after that Hask confronted her with two goons and tried to kidnap her.  Apparently Aki had been too fine a piece of merchandise to let walk away.  She dealt with two goons no problem, but in the ensuing scuffle Hask cut and run.  She hadn't seen him since, to be safe though she had Rinchen and herself move house.  Just in case Hack decided to track her down.  

Now talking on the phone with him a couple years later, it looked like he had done just that.  The smart move would have been to hang up the phone right that instant.  Instead she decided to figure out what this was about.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"You killed two of my guys and cost me a valuable piece of merchandise."
"That was two years ago!"
"No it was more like two hours ago."
That's when it clicked.  This wasn't about before it was about the girl now.  If Aki played her cards right she could come out of this smelling like money.
"See Aki I'd like to make a little deal."
"I'm listening."
"I'm willing to let bygones be bygones.  You killed two of my guys and lost me the best investment I've made in the past three months.  If you bring me back the little bitch, I'll forget this ever happened and you can walk away 8000 credits richer."
"20,000."
"8000."
"Alright 10,000."
"This ain't open to negotiation Aki.  You'll take the eight and bring the girl outside Granica unless you want your ass taking her place.  Which hey is fine with me, I don't know about you." he laughed that smarmy sounding laugh of his.
"8000's fine."
"Pleasure doing business with you." with that he hung up and Aki was left in the pouring rain holding her phone to her ear.

She took off running back towards the coffee shop, where she'd last seen the girl.  Just like Aki'd feared she was already gone.  Frack.  Need to calm down, she couldn't have gone far.  Ask around, maybe someone knows where she went.  She headed over to the makeshift stand where she'd earlier bought two cups of soy coffee for herself and her meal ticket.  She asked the man behind the counter,
"Hey, you see a girl with a breath mask here earlier?"
"Depends, who's asking?"
"I am." replied Aki reaching into her pocket to pull out a 50 and sliding it across the counter to the opportunistic barista.  He pocketed the 50.
"Yeah I saw her, she asked me for directions to a place to stay."
"Where?"
"You know it's a funny thing I can't remember." he put on a confused look that wasn't fooling anyone.
"Son of a-" began Aki before reaching into her pocket again.
"You're only getting a 10 and nothing more.  Now tell me where the hell she went."
"Cheapskate, a coffin hotel a couple blocks from here." he gave Aki the name and directions.
As she walked away she muttered in her native Japanese "Baka-yaro." frustrated over the loss 60 credits from a guy who served coffee for a living.

A coffin hotel like the one Aki found the girl outside of, it
probably looked a lot dirtier and more futuristic than this one.
The coffin hotel was right where the man said it would be.  So at least the credits weren't wasted.  Aki was pleasantly surprised that the girl was there as well.  Sitting just outside of entrance, with her knees against her chest.  The mask made it difficult to tell, but to Aki it looked like she was sobbing.  The girl's first instinct had probably been to get off the street and out of the rain.  A good instinct.  Only ineffective in that she clearly had no money to pay for shelter.  Not even a lowly coffin-hotel the last refuge of the desperate and homeless.

"There you are, I've been looking all over for you."  the girl looked up at Aki standing over her.  "I thought it over and figured we could try finding this Tanya person another shot.  I know some people, who might be able to help us.  Come on let's get out of here."  The girl took a couple seconds to think about, but followed Aki, clearly not liking her other option.  It was stupid of the girl to trust Aki, but Aki didn't care.  So what if the girl was too trusting, to Aki she was just a meal ticket.  She'd make another attempt at finding Tanya Sandhu and if that didn't work out.  She'd just hand the girl over to Hask.  If he was willing to pay 8000 credits to get her back, Aki could only imagine what this Sandhu woman would pay.  Besides Hask was scum, if Aki didn't have to put up with him to make a living.  So much the better.

They made their way up the stairs of Aki's apartment building.  Passing someone that Aki assumed was a client's of Rinchen's, flanked by two bodyguards.  Aki gave a nod of acknowledgement before continuing her way up to the apartment.  Opening the door she found Rinchen talking with two of her team members.  Including the one that Aki was hoping would still be here.  Rinchen's hacker or rather the guy who ran simulation programs for Rinchen's money laundering business.  Either way he was someone who knew his way around the Net better than Aki did.  "Hey," she said in the direction of the programmer "you want a job?"
"Depends on what it is."
"25 credits for an hour's work, figure out how to get in touch with Tanya Sandhu at Volante Media Global."
She had said an hour, but the programmer got her in touch in under 15 minutes.  To add icing to the cake he had scrambled it so that unless they really wanted to trace the call, Volante wouldn't be able to track it back to her.

Picking up her phone Aki waited.  There was a voice at the other end of the line.  "Hello."
"Is this Tanya Sandhu?"
"Yes it is.  Who is this?"
"Someone who knows someone who wants to talk to you."
With that she handed the phone over to the girl in the breath mask.  The girl looked around like she wanted to take the call in private.  Aki pointed to bathroom, which the girl darted into closing the door and locking it behind her.  Wouldn't do her much good though, Aki of all people knew that nothing in this damn apartment was sound proof.  She leaned against the thin door and began to listen in on the conversation.

"Tanya it's me, Rylee."
That gave Aki some pause.  She only knew one Rylee in relation to Volante Media Global and that
Rylee O'Neal the big chip-hop star.  A screenshot taken from
a movie where she was brought in as a celebrity to make it sell.
You know how sometimes movies will bring in musicians or
athletes who've never acted in their lives and cast them in lead
roles.  That's essentially what this movie was.
was Rylee O'Neal, the famous chip-hop star.  She was real popular with the kids these days.  At least she had been until about two or three months ago, when she suddenly disappeared.  Until now no one was sure who was responsible.  A Volante spokesperson had come out and said they suspected a rival firm, but didn't say which.  (Couldn't risk being accused of anything libellous).  Guess they'd been wrong though and Hask had been holding Rylee this whole time.  It'd been big news when the starlet disappeared from the premiere show of her Homecoming Tour (she was from the Northern Sprawl originally, but moved to the SoCal Sprawl after hitting it big) at the Blue Jays Stadium in the Toronto District.  Now it got brought up again every once in while, on a slow news day.  Aki had stumbled upon the best meal ticket of her whole life.
    
The conversation between Rylee and Sandhu continued.  Aki couldn't hear Sandhu's side of it, but she could hear Rylee's side of it loud and clear.
"No I'm alright...I'm safe.  I'm not a hostage...not anymore."
The conversation was cut short as Rylee started making sounds, that Aki recognized as crying.  It was impossible to believe that this shy, sobbing girl talking on the phone in her bathroom.  Had at one point been an idol, that went on stage and performed in front of thousands.  The weeks in Hask's captivity had really played a number on her psyche.  Aki doubted she would ever recover from it and for a moment she worried if that would make it impossible to make money off of selling her back to Volante Media Global.  After some incoherent conversation between the sobbing, Aki finally heard the next useful piece of information.  "A-a-alright I'll put her on."

Aki jumped back from the door just as it opened and made like she hadn't been listening to the whole conversation.  The masked girl now identified as chip-hop sensation Rylee O'Neal handed the phone back to Aki.  Putting it to her ear Aki heard the voice on the other end.  "I take it you're the one I have to thank for this."
"That's about right."
"Meet me outside of Tabara's Fashion Boutique in an hour.  Bring the girl, you'll be sufficiently rewarded."  With that there was a click and Aki was holding a phone to her ear with no one on the other end.

Aki left the apartment with Rylee in tow,  they hopped on Aki's Mitsubishi Kaneda Cyberbike and were off.  The bike wasn't really meant to (safely) carry a passenger other than its driver.  Aki didn't really care though, she was a good rider and wasn't really worried about a ticket.  Tabara's was in a more moderate zone of the Sprawl, an area not unlike the neighbourhood that Aki currently lived in.  It had been recently gentrified, so that it was safe for low to mid-level corporates could come here on their days off.  Compared to the empty streets of Aki's own neighbourhood, the place was swarming of pedestrians.  Tabara's was part of a mall area, it was close to one of the open areas where the benches for tired shoppers.  It was an open space and there were a lot of civilians around.  This Sandhu chick obviously knew what the hell she was doing.  Since they had arrived a few minutes earlier than they'd been supposed to Aki did a little window shopping.  Tabara's it turned out was a place that specialized in clothing in style reminiscent of traditional African tribal designs.  Not exactly Aki's thing, but she saw a few pieces that she thought Rinchen might like.
Something like the mall where Aki and Rylee met Tanya.

Checking her phone Aki saw that it was about time for Sandhu to have shown up to retrieve Rylee.  She looked around the area and saw a woman approaching them.  Aki figured her for Tanya Sandhu.  She was a woman of (Aki wanted to say) Indian descent.  She dressed in a suit, the style of which was all the rage among corporates these days.  Her blouse was open enough that if sexual harassment was still a viable way of taking a corporation for some easy money.  Tanya Sandhu would have been trying to game the system for all it was worth.  On one of her breasts Aki could make out a Yakuza style tattoo of a viper of some kind.

She spoke with a refinement to the local slang that suggested that she wasn't used to using it.  "So you're the mystery woman on the phone then?"
"Yeah, that'd be me.  So how do you want to handle this?"
"You hand the girl over first and I give you the money."
"I can live with that."  It'd be better not to demand the money first, Aki'd seen one to many deals go south, because someone demanded to be paid first.  Handing Rylee over first was an act of good faith that she hoped would ensure Tanya to act in kind.  She signalled to Rylee to move towards Tanya.  She didn't seem to need to be asked twice.  She practically flung herself at Tanya, as if she was relieved to see a familiar (and friendly) face after all these weeks.  She started sobbing on Tanya's shoulder, while Tanya gave the usual comforting gestures.  That Aki recognized as someone just doing what the job demanded of them.  She had done similar comforting on a number of occasions.  It was someone trying to convince a person they cared, but still remain detached in case they had to cut them loose.

Having sufficiently comforted the distraught (former I guess) chip-hop star.  Tanya reached into her suit jacket and pulled out a stack of bills, handing them over to Aki.  Aki counted them it came out to about 2000 credits, significantly less than she'd been hoping for.
"What the hell is this?" she demanded.
"If I were you I'd take it and go.  If I wanted to I could have four members of my security team shoot you right now.  I'd get out while the getting's good."  Tanya didn't look like she was bluffing about the security team, Aki couldn't figure out where they were, but she didn't doubt their existence.  The corporate double-crosser started leading the sobbing starlet away.  Before she stopped and turned back to look at Aki.
"Unless you'd be interested in doing a little job for me." she left that sentence opened ended.
"I'm listening."
"I assume you know who did this."
"Yeah, I know the prick."
"I want you to kill him and anyone involved in this.  You'll get 15000 credits upon completion."
"I can do that, with pleasure."
Tanya reached once again into her suit jacket and pulled out a business card.  Handing it to Aki,
"Call that number when it's done."
With that Tanya and Rylee walked off into the crowd, leaving Aki standing outside of the fashion boutique.

It was better than Aki could have hoped for.  Sure she hadn't made as much as she had hoped to handing Rylee back over to Volante.  She had walked away with her life, 2000 credits and an offer of another 15000 for killing Hask.  Hask was someone she would be happy to kill, it was killing two birds with one stone so to speak.  She bought a tie for Rinchen at Tabara's and headed home on her Kaneda.  She was heading back up to her and Rinchen's apartment, when she came upon it's kicked in door.

The scene that greeted Aki at her apartment.  Taken right from
the TV Tropes page for this classic scene.  Ignore Harrison
Ford and the other guy in the foreground.
Oh no.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!  She ran pressed against the wall, pulling out her Sig Sauer P-210-2 clone.  She made an initial sweep of the apartment finding nothing in the ransacked living and bedrooms.  All she knew was that Rinchen was gone and she had pretty good idea of who did it.  Like clockwork, as if Hask had someone sitting on the apartment telling him when she'd arrived.  Her phone began to ring.  She wasted no time in answering.
"Hask you piece of-" she began.
"Now let me stop you right there, bitch.  We had a deal, you bring me the girl and I give you the money.  Well I don't fucking see her, so I thought it was time to give you a little more incentive."
"I swear to God if you hurt her..."
"Nothing will happen to her, as long as you bring me that bitch.  Also Aki baby, I haven't told her about us.  Yet."  That last part sent a shiver up her spine. "Though I might tell her if you don't hurry up and bring me the girl.  You have 24 hours otherwise me and your little friend are going to have some fun."  He told her where to bring Rylee (who Aki no longer had) and then the line went dead.

Conclusions
That's where our session ended, I had to pack up and leave soon after we played out that little cliff-hanger.  Overall I think it was a pretty good session.  The one combat we ran this session went a lot more smoothly than I expected it to.  The minions proved to be next to useless against Aki.  Though that was kind of meant to be the point of them for that particular scene.  Aki's player did a great job at staying in character (except when she had to ask out of character questions) while she felt sympathy for the character Rylee.  She would often state that Aki didn't really feel anything of the sort.  She also had the expected reaction towards Hask, she absolutely despised him.  She also became very attached to Rinchen (Aki's lover for those of you who don't remember) and all I did was narrate a brief scene of the two of them having breakfast.  (I actually recommend trying this some time in your own games.  Have an NPC make a meal for the PCs without charging them.  Probably best if you do this somewhere other than an inn.  See what their reactions are).  

I had a number of paths for how this could go in my head.  I placed a high amount of money in front of Aki's player to see if she'd make an immoral choice.  Then I placed a moral choice with a smaller chance of payoff, which had an opportunity to evolve into a more difficult job with a high payoff.  I wanted to simulate something I've seen in some Noir (a huge inspiration to Cyberpunk) where the job is the simple part.  The difficult part is dealing with the fallout afterwards.  The fallout in this case being the "villain" kidnapping the "hero's" love interest in hopes of drawing them out.  The player reacted quite well to Rinchen's kidnapping (by well I mean they were distraught).  We're hoping to continue the game after Labour Day, after the player moves into her new apartment and starts her new semester at college.  Until then be sure to +1, reshare, comment and follow.  Have a good day and may the dice be ever in your favour.    

Edit: Session 2's Actual Play Report is now up, you can read it here.