Anarchy is Dead
You know there are going to be people trying to stop you from doing the job you’ve been hired to do—if there weren’t, you wouldn’t be making nuyen one, because any simpleton could take care of the work. Lots of shadowrunners have ended up dead in an alley somewhere because they underestimated the strength of the opposition, or because they didn’t understand all the interests involved in a run, and just who might be coming after them. The next few sections will help you not be like them, telling you about the wide range of people and things that might get in your way as you try to get drek done.
The Big Ten
The Big Ten megacorporations of the world control vast amounts of the world’s resources and cash, along with employing a large percentage of the planet’s population. They make the world keep spinning—and have the power to make it stop in short order. Any runner who lasts for more than a week or two is going to end up working for or against one or more of them, so it’s best to know what you’re up against. Here’s a rundown:
- Ares Macrotechnology
- EVO Corporation
- Horizon Group
- Mitsuhama Computer Technologies
- Renraku Computer Systems
- Saeder-Krupp Heavy Industries
- Shiawase Corporation
- Wuxing Incorporated
A lot of shadowrunners will tell you the only real difference between what we do and organized crime is the organized part. There’s some truth in that. Shadowrunners have occasionally formed organizations, like the legendary Assets, Inc., but as a rule it’s not something we do. People like us, we don’t take orders well. We don’t like to share with anyone outside of our team (or often inside it, for that matter), not to mention regimentation, hierarchical organization, and all that lock-step discipline are pretty much poison to us. Organized crime, on the other hand, thrives on that stuff. Organized crime does the things large numbers of people do well: deals narcotics and other addictives; runs protection rackets; operates gambling rings—just about anything that requires an army and turns a profit. This means organized crime can often be found deeply entwined with legitimate, respected businesses. In some cases it’s hard to tell where the crime ends and the business begins.
Despite their violent reputations, the organizations that make up organized crime eschew pyrotechnics whenever possible. Firefights bring police attention and could result in important people getting killed or otherwise indisposed. As a general rule, the work they do goes better when no one is looking, so they put a lot of effort into keeping a low profile. But don’t be confused—and don’t get stupid. Just because they’d rather keep their guns holstered and the money flowing, don’t think for a minute they won’t get down and dirty when they need to.
The Mafia is an extensive and significant presence in every major North American city, most European cities, and a lot of cities everywhere else. They like cities. They usually don’t work closely with the megacorporations because, let’s face it, they are a megacorporation. The main difference between the recognized corps and the Mafia is that when there’s infighting between Mafia’s divisions, it’s slightly more likely to involve high body counts.
The Yakuza, by contrast, have tied their fortunes to Mitsuhama Computer Technologies. This is not to say that every Yakuza rengo has a connection to Mitsuhama—they don’t, and some rengos fight tooth and nail against those who do. But the Yakuza and MCT are inextricably tied together. As in four high-ranking Yakuza between them own about forty-five percent of the megacorporation. Mitsuhama uses Yakuza foot soldiers to do their dirty work, while the Yakuza uses MCT as the greatest money-laundering organization the world has ever seen. The corporate association gives the Yakuza a ruthless efficiency; anyone who deals with them watches their manners.
The Triads have their origins in what used to be China and differ from the other major crime networks in that they are decentralized—they have no central leadership, no supreme commander or high council or arbitration committee. This can mean a whole new set of protocols when you move from one Triad’s turf to another; what kept you alive in one place might kill you in the next. Their lack of central leadership means conflict resolution within the Triads is often bloody and brutal—though they are capable of considerable restraint and finesse if the situation calls for it. The lack of central control also makes them more flexible in adapting to—and taking over—new territories. If they ever got over their cultural prejudice against women in authority and non-human metatypes in general they’d own a lot bigger piece of the pie. The Triads have the usual gambling, drugs, and prostitution operations, of course, but their specialty is Awakened drugs. For some reason the Triads attract a disproportionate percentage of mages, which makes them very efficient at finding, testing, and preparing the drugs with the best street value.
Remember when I told you organized crime liked to keep a low profile, avoid the spotlight, and keep attention off itself? I was not talking about the Russian Vory v Zakone. They can’t match the money and manpower of the other major syndicates, so their primary public relations tool is intimidation. Their go-to negotiation technique is blunt brutality; the first indication the Vory have entered a new area is usually the bodies of criminals who thought it was their turf. The Vory want to shake things up, they hit every confrontation at a full charge, loud and raging. It doesn’t always work, but I’ll tell you this—no one ever likes to see these guys coming.
In the Hopi tradition, Koshare is the spirit of overdoing things—gluttonous, disruptive, and irreverent, the universal cautionary example. Koshare does all the things people should not do, illustrating why they should never do them. Which is why the network of Native American organized crime rings call themselves the Koshari. They do all the things you would expect an organized crime outfit to do, but they’re especially skilled at talislegging, the illicit smuggling of magical reagents and telesma. If you’re a t-bird pilot in the western half of North America, depending on the impression you make on the Koshari, you’ll either be recruited, warned off their territory, or shut down hard.
We don’t have the room or the time to fill you in on all the gangs that are banging around whatever sprawl you’re sitting in right now. Small places seem to get by with just one gang, but get much over two thousand locals and you’re probably going to have two or more. Over a million locals and you’re talking a healthy gang network. You should take the time to figure out that network—doing one gang’s work on another’s turf is more likely to get you killed if you don’t know that’s what you’re doing.
There are two types of gangs, and by and large as a runner you’re most likely to come across some flavor of the many street gangs. Street gangs are all about territory. A few broken blocks, a handful of abandoned buildings, the streets around their favorite dive, fifteen different piles of brick, a neighborhood, you name it. Whatever they’ve got, it’s theirs. They don’t always know what to do with it—maybe deal minor drugs or run half-assed protection rackets—but they’ll defend it against all comers. Which usually means hanging out and challenging anyone they don’t know to a fight. There are street gangs that aren’t all about the territory. Some gangs are racially based, like Seattle’s elf-only Ancients; some are bound together by a common interest, like the Halloweeners, who dress up like ghouls to terrify and assault civilians unfortunate enough to cross their path. As a general rule gangers are young, raw, untrained, unpredictable, quick-tempered, and eager to mix things up. So yeah, if the needs of whatever job you’re on do not require you to deal with them, avoid gangs. Unless you think your evening would be much improved by a fistfight.
What street gangs do to a collection of sprawl blocks, go-gangs do to highways. Riding around on souped-up cycles and choppers, these gang members look for any driver who shows a milligram of fear. The least hesitation, such as looking like you’re thinking things over, can trigger an attack. This could be a ram, or it could be a game of head-on chicken against a foe with a sawed-off shotgun propped on his handlebar. There’s no point to their attacks—the attack is the point. They are random, indiscriminate, and leap to violence the way a frog leaps to water. Know where the go-gangs are and avoid them.
Gangs to Know About
Gangs vary from sprawl to sprawl, but there are four notable names to watch out for, since they can be major obstacles—or, if you’re lucky and/or persuasive, useful tools. The Ancients, as mentioned above, is an all-elf gang of surprising resources and sophistication. Militaristic in structure as well as fighting strength, they are not a group that should be crossed, especially by orks.
The Awakened rainforest of South America is a prime source of new-wave drugs, and Comando Verde has assumed the role of bringing those drugs to the world. They are not well organized but they are legion, and if you are in a poverty- stricken area of a city where they are influential, beware of the death by a thousand cuts.
The Cutters are like one of those corporations that grew to a behemoth, only instead of hard work and ingenuity, they succeeded with sociopathy and improvised blades. They have a board of directors, high-ranking executives, and everything, along with tremendous access to a whole rainbow of illicit goods and a legion of knife-wielding goons to protect it.
While they’re not as large as the others on this list, the Halloweeners are notable for the sheer chaos they create. Their ruthlessness is not focused on building a narcotics-based empire or anything like it—they just want to watch the world burn. Or more to the point, they want to set it on fire. Their garish costumes and attention-grabbing attacks help them appear larger and more powerful than their actual numbers.
|> XOXO GIGGLES|
The most annoying thing local politicos can do is sic local law enforcement on you, because local ain’t local anymore. Back in the day, law enforcement was a tangle of local, state, and federal authorities doing their own things—barely talking to one another and almost never sharing data. Oh sure, if you were a serial killer they’d spread the word and be on the lookout, but if you were a burglar or practiced any other illegal trade, you could pretty much move from one jurisdiction to the next and get a fresh start with no one being the wiser.
These days things are both worse and better. The bad part is most sprawls save their limited budgets by privatizing law enforcement—which means cops are corps. The two big boys are Lone Star, an independent corp that boasts about its tradition of no-holds-barred Texas justice (i.e., brutality), and Knight Errant, a division of Ares Macrotechnology. These two compete for big-ticket contracts; Knight Errant recently wrestled the plum of Seattle from Lone Star’s hands. Other major security providers include Sakura Security, which has a large presence in Japan, German security giant Sternschutz, France’s Esprit Industries (a subsidiary of Aztechnology), and Mitsuhama’s one-two punch of Parashield and Petrovski Security. These companies have international reach, and their centralized databases are everywhere they are; do something in one jurisdiction and all the others know about it. So stay out of the database. Give them nothing—your name, your picture, your favorite make of whiskey, anything—because some smart cop, or smarter program, can use that anything to finger you. The good part is that while law-enforcement corps share all data internally, it’s in their best interest to make their rivals look as inept as possible—which means they never tell each other anything. So as long as you know who’s covering what turf, you can still find cracks to fall into.
But don’t get cocky. Law-enforcement contracts can change hands in a blink; what’s Knight Errant territory one day may be Lone Star the next. Meaning you may be an unknown free agent one day and an actively sought fugitive the next. And be aware that many sprawls have multiple security companies in their borders—Knight Errant may have the city contract while Lone Star covers residential or maybe corporate compounds. Make sure you know who’s patrolling which streets when, and who might be looking for you.
Politicians may not have the clout they did back in the day, but there are still taxes to be collected, laws to enforce, infrastructure to be maintained, and careers to be made. Most government crap goes on way over your head. You don’t need to worry about who’s president or king of whatever nation you’re in and almost all state and regional objectives require resources and manpower beyond any runner team’s inventory. What you want are the local officials—mayors, aldermen, trustees, that sort of thing—who enforce the laws, collect the taxes, fund emergency and rescue services, and try to ensure everything works. These local leaders may not be as powerful as the corps, but as long as you’re on their turf, they’ve got a lot of ways to help you or hinder you. Good news is they’re far enough down the food chain that there’s a chance you can afford whatever it takes to buy their momentary cooperation. They’re easier to blackmail, too. Ask around, look around, figure out whom you need to know and what you need to know about them—you never know when you’re going to need them.
Besides the actual politicians, the other people you need to know about are the policlubs. If there is any cause in the Sixth World that two or more people can agree on, they’ll form a policlub around it. Sometimes the point of the club is to, you know, actually participate in politics. Other times the clubs are a cover for illegal activities, and a lot of them are just an excuse for people to get together and get wasted. Most of these groups wield no discernible power; you can pretty much ignore them. There are a few you should pay attention to.
One is the Humanis Policlub. Elves, dwarfs, trolls, and orks have been in the world for more than five decades, but for some people that hasn’t been long enough to get used to the idea or to like having them around. Especially the orks and trolls. Following the proud tradition of racist groups since the dawn of time, Humanis is dedicated to putting a friendly face on hate. They’re not against anyone, they’ll tell you, they’re just pro-human. They don’t want to take anything away from the other metatypes, they just want to make sure humans get their fair share (which is pretty much everything).
Humanis serves as a nexus for a whole range of like-minded groups, from the unpleasant and aggressive Alamos 20,000 to the ultra-violent Hand of Five. If you’re a non-human, if you like a non-human, or if you’re going to be traveling anywhere non-humans are going to be, you need to be aware of what Humanis and its ilk are up to. They could pop in and mess things up at any time. Be warned.
The whole Newtonian thing about action causing reaction works with people, just like it does in physics. There are some notable pro-metahuman groups, from powerful lobbyists and organizers of the Ork Rights Commission to the radical and violence-prone Sons of Sauron. Like the anti-meta groups, these organizations are capable of causing distractions or chaos wherever you may be. And if you get pro-meta and anti-meta groups in the same place at the same time—well, I hope your contingency plans can deal with random explosions and scattered bodies.
In addition to racists of various flavors, you also need to keep an eye out for the various iterations of neo-anarchist policlubs. Sometimes they go by that name, just with capitals (“Neo-Anarchist”); but depending on the location and the situation they might call themselves the Panopticans or the Lambeth Martyrs or the People’s Party or anything that sounds symbolic, sincere, and all about the little guy. Individual groups under the neo-anarchist policlub banner come in a variety of flavors. Some are wild-eyed bomb throwers who think everything should be reduced to rubble before trying to build something new; some think everything should be reduced to rubble and nothing built; some are earnest reformers, working within existing systems; some want to change how nations work; some want an end to all nations; some like coffee; some like tea. What unites these disparate agendas and the people who love them is a to-the-core distrust of centralized power in all its forms and wiles. We’re talking both megacorps and big government. They’re all about individuals controlling their own lives, and families and communities living the way they want to live. That is enough to make them radicals in the eyes of anybody with any authority. They are outsiders, often criminalized by the people in power. Just like us. Which makes them natural allies—provided you have a high tolerance for rhetoric.
Nation-states aren’t the major powers in the world anymore, but they’re not entirely without power, either, so they keep popping their heads up and causing problems for shadowrunners. At the very least, they have borders that they tend to watch, and at the most, they play power games with elections and legislation that lead to plenty of extralegal action.
The United Canadian and American States do not dominate the globe like the former United States once did, but they still have enough wealth and military might to make people pay attention when they flex their muscles. Thanks to international gerrymandering, the major sprawl of Seattle is part of the UCAS, contributing a lot of economic heft—and a good supply of shadowrunning talent.
Just to the south of the bulk of the UCAS is the Confederation of American States. Sometimes people feel like the CAS can be ignored as the lesser younger sibling of the UCAS, but it has the right combination of wealth, spunk, and long-held grudges to rise up and get attention when it wants to.
The western portion of North America is dominated by the Native American Nations, including the Sioux Nation in the heart of the continent, the Salish-Shidhe Council to the northwest, and the Pueblo Corporate Council in the southwest. These nations do not always share a common interest, but they are capable of working together often enough to keep nearby nations nervous.
Central America is dominated by the nation of Aztlan, which nicely connects North and South America. The nation is essentially a subsidiary of Aztechnology, serving as a breadbasket and labor-generating machine to help the corp move forward.
The largest nation in South America is Amazonia, ruled by the dragon Hualpa. With severe restrictions on corporations and a respect for nature, Amazonia is seen as a paradise by some, but its shadows run as deep as those of any other nation.
In Europe, the Allied German States are an economic powerhouse, thanks in large pªrt to the overwhelming strength of Saeder-Krupp. The nation is also home to the Free City of Berlin, a hotspot of new-anarchist and anti-corporate activity.
While the AGS has one megacorp, the Japanese Imperial State has three, including the newly anointed largest megacorp in the world. With the three megacorps working together outside of Japan’s borders, the strength of the nation touches every part of the world.
In Africa, Kenya has gained significant strength thanks to the Kilimanjaro Mass Driver and the corporate interest surrounding it. The ghoul kingdom of Asamando has gained a different sort of strength, serving as one of the few places where the Infected are welcomed and recognized as citizens.
Only a small percentage of the world’s population has Awakened with magic talent, and it’s an even smaller group that has the kind of ability that can really make an impact. This is good and bad for spellcasters and adepts. The good news is that they generally are in demand and can find a wide variety of work options. The bad news is that, as carriers of significant and unpredictable power, the Awakened are sought after by the powers of the world in an effort to gain some control over their talents—or make sure they eliminate the competition. It’s tough to survive in a world where there seem to be a hundred reasons for people to geek the mage first.
Magicians, then, band together for a lot of reasons—shared research on spells, conversation about common areas of interest, protection, information on powerful magical reagents and artifacts, and so on. Belonging to one of these groups can bring big benefits, but running into one of them in the course of a run can cause big headaches.
One of the two largest magic-focused organizations in the world is the Draco Foundation, the organization started by the late dragon Dunkelzahn’s estate to execute his will and carry out his wishes. These wishes included bequests related to the disposition obscure magical artifacts and the creation of the Dunkelzahn Institute of Magical Research. The foundation has become a tremendous repository of knowledge, full of the type of people who are so dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge that they sometimes are blind to other concerns, including the well-being of people who are not them.
The second large magical organization is the Atlantean Foundation. It’s older than the Draco Foundation and a bit more eccentric, with its belief that all magic in the Sixth World ties back to the ancient vanished civilization of Atlantis. While there is some competitiveness between the two foundations, the Atlantean Foundation received five billion nuyen from Dunkelzahn’s will, which helps keep things from getting too hostile. If you’re in the business of digging into rare artifacts or other strange magic, know that one or both of these organizations might be on your tail, offering stiff competition.
Shadowrunners know that spellslingers and adepts sometimes let their powers go to their head, and no organization reflects this more than the Illuminates of the New Dawn. They believe magic and those who wield it can lead metahumanity into a better future, and they are very persistent in working to make that future happen. From running for public office to recovering artifacts that might help them build their power, they are a very active and energetic. They are smaller than the two foundations, but the magic power and financial resources of the leader means they remain a force to be reckoned with.
On the darker side is Ordo Maximus. They appear to be a group of wealthy people, mostly in Europe, who share magic research and look for ways to build their power. Not exactly a humanitarian organization, but also not vastly different than most organizations on the planet. What makes them worse is the small group of vampires at the core of the group. Most people don’t know about those Infected members, but those who do worry severely about vampires gaining and extending their powers.