Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 9

The big day had come, and Hydropolis was feeling the heat. With the Future of the Midwest conference in full swing, every edgerunner in the city was looking over their shoulder at the corporate operatives and East Coast tourists trying to scope out the action. For CabbageCorp, though, the Future of the Midwest was looking shaky. While local agricorps like Biotechnica, Continental Brands, and Petrochem had been snubbed from the agenda, Jayhawk Agritech got the keynote slot with Dr. William Squires. Or at least that’s what the team thought.

When we last left the team, they were running all over the midwest trying to tie down loose ends and get ready for the big gun business travelers. After getting back into town, though, things seemed quiet. Mason got a mission from Lynx that seemed like a real milk run: There was an upstart merc team who had been taking missions from Ziggurat, standard follow-ups on overdue Garden connections and stolen bandwidth. After doing nearly a dozen of these missions and making about 100 euro on each, the team signed up for a weird-looking mission to investigate a broadband connection in an abandoned building. The team happened to know a thing or two about this building. Remember Olga? Jacob’s ex? Well, the dirt she wanted to share with Jacob that got them drone-attacked several sessions back was about Jayhawk real estate dealings. The team helped her out of Hydropolis, and in exchange got some dirt on Jayhawk that they shared with their employer. That dirt, finally, came full circle and revealed some weirdness about this one Jayhawk property.

Opting not to pre-empt the amateur runner team, everyone instead piled into the King and Kong Ripperdoc truck and headed to the site, hoping to catch them in the act. What they got was a whole lot weirder. After asking a few of the local squatters what was going on, they went down to the basement and found the amateurs staring at a heavily, heavily armored terminal, encased in concrete and with several armored conduits heading into and out of it. This wasn’t only not a Garden connection, this was from before the Garden existed. This was Old Net equipment. Mason made the team’s presence known to the amateurs, handed out business cards, and explained that if they tried to disconnect that equipment something very bad was going to happen. He also not-so-subtly implied that Biotechnica would pay a lot more than 100 euro per knock cable disconnection calls. The amateurs, calling themselves Fireteam, scampered off, and CabbageCorp left with more questions than answers.

The questions kept coming when the conference keynote started. Squires made a short, cryptic speech about transforming the midwest and possibly the world. Mason ran to intercept him and got maybe twenty seconds of his time as he was leaving the premises. Squires smiled, and assured Mason that all would be clear in time. Then he was ushered into an armored limo by a group of Arasaka guards.

Arasaka guards. That was weird, Jayhawk had their own inhouse security. There were a couple of calls that needed to be made now, and Mason first called Arasaka. Back when he had the misfortune of meeting with Ryu-san, Mason had met the local Arasaka office head, a man by the name of Max Okada. Max was ‘promoted’ to run the Hydropolis office as a form of punishment, so he and Mason connected over their respective backstories about their employers. Of course, when Mason tried to connect to the Arasaka office phone system, he just got gunshots and a lot of screaming. That’s not good. The team rushed across town, but the assailants were gone. Max had been shot in the head, and several other security personnel were dead. Jacob and Philly spoke to some of the procurement employees they had met earlier when dealing with the drone theft, while Mason rushed back across town to catch their old frenemy Simon, head of Jayhawk Security.

Simon didn’t mince words. “He’s going to kill us all,” he said. “Squires has taken the company hostage and it won’t be long before his project kills us all.”

To use a tired cliche, chickens always come home to roost. The events leading up to the Future of the Midwest conference were full of callbacks to earlier sessions and earlier things that the team had done. The key to callbacks is that you always want to make your players feel like they did something important, while minimizing the degree to which they feel like their decision was wrong, or being punished (there is an exception to this, which is if your players feel like something is wrong in the moment and then do it anyway, there should definitely be consequences). Calling back the subplot with Olga is more an example of the opposite; by helping Olga, the team got information that fed right into the events of this session. Those are positive consequences, but also don’t resolve the broader decision that was made, which was to side against Jayhawk and with Jacob’s ex (there were other consequences for that decision but they came earlier and were more directly associated with the session in which the decision occurred).

A bigger point here is about taking notes. No matter how you do it, you the GM are responsible for keeping track of the events of previous sessions. The reason this is so tightly associated with this session is more behind-the-scenes; this is the point in the CabbageCorp arc when the delay between running the session and writing the Adventure Log has gotten high enough that I’ve started to forget what happened in these sessions! A lot of these callbacks required significantly jogging my memory, and in a lot of cases revealed events I either forgot about or decided not to focus on in earlier Adventure Log articles. Now, my fast and loose note-taking was mostly OK during the campaign, but the longer your campaign goes the better your notes need to be. As I’ve inadvertently demonstrated, it’s really tough to remember something that happened six months ago, especially when that means there’s been 8-10 equally eventful sessions in between then and now. (*Cries in High Impact Heroics* – Ed.)

There are multiple ways to take notes, and which one works best is really up to personal preference. Taking notes during sessions is comprehensive, but it feels like work and can distract you from GMing. Writing up summaries after the fact keeps your head in the game during the session, but you can forget key details. I’ve found a combination of both works for me, writing down key NPCs, locations, and events during the session and then fleshing out the summary later. What’s really worked well for me recently, though, has been not taking notes at all. I’m not good at taking notes, and the notes I did take during, for example, this campaign are scattershot and inconsistent. What I’ve started doing instead is recording the sessions. My main group, the one behind this Adventure Log, the D&D Adventure Log, and Seamus’s High Impact Heroics Adventure Log, all play online most of the time. Therefore, as I’m now running the game through Skype, I can just hit the record button and have a full session recording sent to me when it’s done. If you use other online services that don’t have built-in recording, an open source tool called OBS can help you pull it off. If you’re in-person you can set up a mic at the table, with the warning that a lot of background noise (dice rolling especially) will be picked up. The only thing you need to do in any of these cases is let your players know you’re recording and make sure they’re OK with it. The recordings you get will be a lot rougher than an Actual Play but you’ll still have a copy of the session you can refer back to in future prep. My other tip is to grab an audio player which lets you play the audio back at high speed; it’ll help reduce the amount of time you spend listening to the recording after the fact.

It’s also worthwhile to encourage your players to take notes and write summaries as well. Beyond sometimes remembering things you didn’t, players will also focus on different aspects of the session, and this can come through in their writing very clearly. Seeing those different points of focus will help you understand what your players think is important in the game, which could have an impact on your prep. It’s awesome if your players are already motivated to do this but if they aren’t even a small bribe of XP can make a big difference; some games (Torchbearer, for example) actually have rewards for the player doing the session recap built into the rules.

The Future of the Midwest conference marks a turning point for CabbageCorp; they have to figure out what Squires is doing, and figure out if they need to stop him. This means getting busy: There’s a warehouse to renovate, a business trip to take, and some buried secrets to uncover, and that’s not all. Join us next time as we begin ramping up to the climax of this Adventure Log!

CabbageCorp is played with Cyberpunk Red. Check out the last installment here, or the next one here.

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