In a follow-up the previous GUMSHOE cyperpunk adventure A FAMILIAR FACE (which includes new abilities) here are 6 Adventure Seeds you can develop to continue a cyperpunk campaign or adapt into any modern or near future game.
The emphasis is on investigation with many of the scenarios inspired by real-life events. Each adventure can stand alone or intermingled to give the impression that the PCs are in a living city. Some investigations may take time so PCs can choose to concentrate on another investigation while they are waiting for results to come back or further clues to present themselves.
A Trans-Species convention is being held in the City. The Trans-Species movement use cybernetics and cosmetic surgery to give themselves animal characteristics. They believe that they were born in the wrong body and are now using medical science to reveal their true selves.
PCs might be aware of this but it isn’t widely publicised in the media. Trans-Species are little known and not well understood. Those who are aware of them think they are either oddballs or freaks.
At 1am chlorine gas is released in the hotel where the convention is held, forcing a mass evacuation. Media outlets report this as a terrorist act and then become amused at the footage of animal-people shivering in the cold of the night.
PCs who are awake at this time may decided to investigate or at decide to bring food, drinks and blankets to the Trans-Species and other guests at the hotel. They can witness first hand 15 people being rushed to hospital, the media descending on the scene and emergency services trying to work out what has happened.
In the following days the media concentrates more on the issue of Trans-Species than how was responsible for the attack. The police investigate but make little progress, with those in the Trans-Species community believing that they simply aren’t taking it seriously.
It can be up to the PCs to actually get to the bottom of who is responsible for the attack. They could be personally asked by a Trans-Species member who thinks they won’t get justice or the PCs might simply want to discover the truth.
NuWeb, Police & Interview reveals that when fireman (wearing breathing respirators) entered they discovered a broken mason jar on the 9th floor which was later confirmed to have contained the gas. This is therefore a deliberate attack, rather than an accidental spilling of chemicals or a leak as first suspected.
A 1 point spend reveals that the police investigated all of the hotel staff and the staff of several locals pools and pool suppliers but can’t confirm where the chlorine was obtained from or who was responsible.
A possible suspect is a vocal Trans-Species hater, TruHuman. TruHuman can be discovered through NuWeb or Conspiracy, as someone who frequently posts about his loathing for the movement and has made threats to bomb the convention or set fire to the hotel.
Electronic Surveillance, NuWeb, Hacking or Data Recovery can help PCs discover TruHuman’s real identity is Neville Actvis, an unemployed resident of the City. Interview, Interrogation or Cold Reading, indicates that Neville is all talk. He can be intimidated into never bothering the Trans-Species movement again.
Another suspect is the Trans-Species member Maximal (real name Max Kasan) who was one of the first to leave the hotel and many remember him making passionate, political speeches to rally the movement. He said that the gas attack was a wake-up call and that they had to band together to ensure that this didn’t happen again.
Interview or Undercover can gather more information from the Trans-Species members and even get the PCs close to Maximal. Until recently no one took Maximal seriously, especially his belief that there was an organised threat to them. Now people are taking notice, although Maximal is now strangely reluctant to take the lead in their revolution.
Speaking with Maximal directly with Interview, Inspiration or Reassurance reveals that he was actually high at the time of the evacuation and remembers little. He is now embarrassed by his actions and reluctant to go public as many of his friends and family are unaware of his involvement in the movement.
In fact the Trans-Species convention is a smokescreen to the real party responsible for the chlorine attack. Earlier in the day a dog show was held at the hotel and many of the dogs were still in the basement, waiting for collection by their owners the next day. 5 dogs died from the chlorine gas, a footnote in most of the reports.
An investigation into the dogs deaths using Pathology, Hacking, Data Retrieval or Interview with the examiner indicates that one of the dogs had a small incision, possibly where an identity chip was implanted. The owners (who live in another city) will confirm that the dog was chipped.
Research into the vet reveals that his brother is currently under arrest. Corporation reveals he is suspected of stealing important data from the Corporation he worked for. So far investigators have been unable to locate the stolen data.
This is because he had his brother place the data in the dogs identity chip. An associate in the City was sent to recover the data from the hotel, using the chlorine gas to misdirect investigators and prevent anyone from finding out the dog had its chip removed.
Now knowing the truth the PCs can find the hired associate using Banking to trace the payment from the vet’s brother or use Surveillance or Electronic surveillance to track the associate. Homeless also reveals that they saw the associate leaving the hotel and discarding his fur costume which concealed the breathing respirator he used.
Corporation can be used to find out who the stolen data will likely to be sold to. This can allow PCs to catch the associate in the act or set up a sting.
The Trans-Species community may take some small comfort in the fact that they weren’t being specifically targeted in the gas attack but they will also slip back into obscurity once the media has moved on to the next big news story.
OFF THE RECORD
A major political or corporate VIP is a crack user. They are supplied by the street gang, Eazy Life, who they party with when they pick up their drugs. One of the gang members recorded the VIP smoking crack and drinking with the criminals and now they are blackmailing the figure to keep the law away from their operations.
A representative of the VIP approaches a hacker to break the security on the data storage site where the gang have uploaded the digital footage and delete it. This will save the figures reputation and free them from the control of the gang.
If one of the PCs is a hacker they might be approached to do the job. Finding out which storage site the gang are using (and acquiring passwords) requires surveillance or someone to infiltrate the group. They then just need to delete the footage which will diminish the gangs influence but leave crack addict in an important position in the City.
The existence of the digital footage may reach others. Reporters, police officers and rival politicians or corporate drones might all want the footage to see the light of day and seek to prevent its deletion in the hopes of acquiring it for their uses.
PCs can become involved deciding whether they want to help the VIP (either for financial gain, influence or because they support the figure) or expose him. They can find themselves competing with other factions whose goals could be furthered by one of these outcomes.
The VIP can be investigated using Corporations or Politics (which ever is appropriate). City and Bureaucracy can reveal the influence the figure has and how they might be using this to protect Eazy Life (both because they are blackmailing him and because they are his dealers). If the PCs were already investigating the figure this might serve as their entry point into this story.
If the PCs aren’t the hackers hired by the VIP they may use Hacking or NuWeb to find out who was in order to stop them or at least know how long they have before the job is carried out.
Crime, Gangs and Narcotics can reveal useful information about the Eazy Life such as where they operate and where their drugs come from. They could use Undercover to pretend to be potential new recruits or addicts or get hands on and use Interrogation or Interview to get the information directly from gang members.
Data Retrieval, Dumpster Diving, Electronic Surveillance and Phishing can gather further information about the activity of Eazy Life and which storage site they use.
One piece of information that comes up when Eazy Life is investigated is that the gang member who recorded the footage on his phone was recently shoot and killed. Crime, Gang or Police can reveal that the shooter was arrested and was a member of a rival gang. The dead Eazy Life gang members’ phone was never recovered.
Banking reveals the shooter received a sizeable amount of money which can be traced back to the VIP. The shooter was also able to reduce their sentence down to manslaughter, which Bureaucracy or Police can also trace back to the influence of the VIP.
This was an attempt to recover the footage, with the shooter passing the stolen phone to a representative of the VIP. They found that the footage had already been uploaded by the gang. This is an indication of what the VIP is capable of.
Once the site is known Hacking can be used to breach the site and either delete or copy the file (or both).
At the conclusion there are several possible outcomes to this adventure.
If the hacker succeeds the digital file is deleted keeping the VIPs reputations intact, for the moment. It might only be a matter of time before he is put in compromising position. This still leaves a crack addict in a position of power and the City may suffer because of it.
The VIP might be exposed, potentially ruining their career. The Eazy Life won’t have his protection which might prevent them from dedicating time to finding out how their blackmail material was erased. Those involved in the hacking could still be in danger later if their connection is discovered by the gang.
If another faction obtains the footage they can use this to black mail the VIP themselves, keeping the incriminating data on more secure storage sites. This can alter the balance of power in the City until the data is either destroyed or the VIP’s drug addiction becomes public knowledge.
Gangs in the City are charging taxi companies to travel through territory that they control. If they spot a taxi cab from a company that has not paid they will attack the vehicle and the driver. This has escalated to a number of murders.
The taxi companies have spoken both to the police and the City council but have been advised to keep paying the weekly extortion fees until the problem is solved. In some cases taxi companies simply refuse to travel to certain sections of the City as they are unable to pay all the gangs.
The plight of the taxi companies can involve anyone who makes use of their services. A cab driver can be extremely nervous, especially if asked to travel into territory controlled by a gang whose extortion fee has not been paid.
A PC might be a taxi cab driver or know someone that is. They or someone close to them could be in a cab when it attacked by a gang who hasn’t been paid. They might also stumble across the body of a cab driver who has been murdered.
Crime and Gangs will identify which gangs are responsible for extorting the cab companies. While they are the source of the problem Banking, Bureaucracy, Electronic Surveillance, Police and Politics reveals that the gangs are paying off the authorities to look the other way.
To add another level of intrigue Conspiracies, Corporations and NuWeb can reveal that the company U-drive have been unaffected by the gangs. The company allows users to download an app that alerts them when someone wants to be driven somewhere. Their cabs are unmarked and are therefore unable to be targeted by the gangs.
Data Retrieval, Hacking, Infiltration, Undercover and other forms of investigation can turn up incriminating documents that reveal that the gangs road tax was thought up by U-drive who suggest the idea to the criminals.
Exposing this will force the authorities hand, requiring them to provide better protection to the cab companies. A few of the cabs companies were owned by large corporations who will now take action against U-drive.
A number of Native American women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in and around the City. The police have been criticised for their lack of investigation in what is believed to be racially motivated crimes, especially as the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives have spent thousands using drones and other surveillance equipment to investigate a Native American illegal tobacco ring.
This operation sells hundreds of cigarettes for only a few dollars, cheaply produced on reservations and smuggled across borders. They are easy to come by in the City, sold on the black market, bars and in parking lots.
What few have realised is that there is a link beyond the victims ethnicity. All those who have been murdered or gone missing are related to those running the illegal tobacco ring. They are their sisters, mothers, aunts and cousins. While the government tries to shut them down another faction is attacking their families.
PCs can discover the link if they investigate the family backgrounds of the victims. They might do this because of their job (journalists, police or detectives), because they are involved in the sale of the illegal tobacco or because they don’t want to see more innocent people killed.
Interview or NuWeb can reveal the background of the victims and that in each case one of their family members is suspected to be part of the illegal tobacco ring.
Getting close to those involved in the sale of the cigarettes is difficult. The investigation has put them on edge and it is likely that there will be further raids by the ATFE Bureau during the course of the adventure.
If the PCs are able to speak with them, either using Interview or Undercover, they will find that the criminals aren’t responsible for the death of the women and Assess Honesty would seem to confirm this is true.
Crime indicates that the illegal tobacco business is extremely but that the illegal tobacco ring is selling to the prominent criminal organisations, which works out better than if they had to produce and smuggle the cigarettes themselves.
The hardest hit are the big tobacco companies, which can be revealed through Corporations and Banking. Military indicates that murders are consistent with those carried out by trained soldiers, indicating that one of the tobacco corporations has hired mercenaries.
PCs might wonder why some women are murdered and why some are missing. Using electronic surveillance and hacking to monitor the communications of the members of illegal tobacco ring whose relatives are missing reveals that they are being blackmailed. Their family members are being held hostage and will be killed unless the criminals agree to sabotage their own operation.
A few hours from when the PCs discover this key piece of information those being blackmailed have been told to slaughter their fellow criminals and burn their stock. Those with contacts in police or ATFE Bureau this is timed to coincide with a raid. The illegal tobacco ring will be wiped out, the government gets the credit and the tobacco corporation reaps the profit.
The PCs can warn members of the illegal tobacco ring or those who are undercover in the operation could be caught up in the slaughter. They can also try to track the communications from the Corporation back to the source to discover where the kidnapped women are being held.
If exposed the corporation claims no knowledge of the murders and insists they were working with the ATFE to protect the public from substandard and dangerous illegal cigarettes, giving the details of the people they were working with. If things went badly with the raid the bureau will claim that the co-operation with the corporation was unauthorised, launching an investigation to find out how this happened.
If the PCs are able to successfully defeat the mercenaries and/or have them arrested more of the truth comes out. In return for a reduced sentence they reveal who hired them and why. This will lead to a criminal investigation into the corporation.
Should the PCs rescue those who were kidnapped, reveal the identity of the killers and prevented the slaughter at the illegal tobacco ring they can find themselves in good standing with the criminals, if not the whole of the local Native American community.
Police at the City airport have turning a blind eye to drug smugglers activities, in return for a cut of the merchandise. This has led to an increasing number of drugs being flown into the City, with the corrupt police officers becoming rich on the proceeds.
An internal police investigation began to suspect the officers and were planning a raid. By coincidence it was on that day that two of the corrupt officers, Mendez & Cooper, decided to stash some of the drugs in the airport toilets. They would then have an associate pick up the drugs so they could sell it themselves later . Their plan was discovered resulting in a shoot out with their fellow conspirators who were none to happy about the betrayal.
Mendez & Cooper escaped the airport just as the raid took place, walking straight into the ongoing shoot out. The corrupt cops were shot and killed in the resulting chaos. The police department is now trying to spin events, blaming the two corrupt officers who escaped for the killing of loyal police officers. In this way they minimise the scale of the operation and avoid having to explain why they killed their fellow cops.
While hardly innocent the two corrupt cops want to clear their names. They are afraid to surrender as the believe the police department will find a way to silence them. What they need are people they can trust to gather the evidence which will reveal what really happened.
PCs can get involved because Mendez & Cooper have encountered them before (possibly before they were assigned to the airport) or know they have a reputation for finding the truth. PCs might also be curious about the events at the airport and not believe the official story. They could also have criminal connections who have been impacted by the drug operation at the airport.
The two corrupt cops are wanted men during the investigation. They will either be hiding throughout the City or the PCs can hide them somewhere safe. The hunt for them presents ongoing tension and the PCs may be investigated by the police if they believe they are harbouring these criminals.
Police gives a basic understanding of the airport unit, which is effectively its own precinct. It also reveals that drug confiscation has decreased steadily in the last year. A 1 point spend indicates that the officers at the station were being investigated.
A press conference is held, giving some basic facts and presenting surveillance footage taken from the airport which supports their version of events. It shows Mendez & Cooper exiting the toilets and being confronted by their fellow officers, the resulting shootout and the Mendez & Cooper fleeing.
Media Manipulation of the released footage shows that it has been altered to make it appear as if Mendez & Cooper fired first after being confronted by the other officers. In the resulting firefight 5 of the airport cops were killed.
Data Retrieval confirms that Mendez & Cooper were shot at first and while they did shoot at the other airport cops they did not hit them. A 1 point spend indicates the arrival of a second group of cops as Mendez & Cooper flee through a security door (which allowed them to reach the airfield where they escaped in their police vehicle). The footage ends here, indicating whoever edited it failed to hide this incriminating detail.
Using Interrogation or Interview on eye witnesses also indicates a more accurate version of events. A 1 point spend also reveals that Mendez & Cooper were seen taking in a mysterious package into the toilets before hand.
Bureaucracy and NuWeb turns up more troubling inconsistencies in the official version of events. The 5 officers killed in the airport were shot in the backs (by the arriving police officers and not Mendez & Cooper who were in front of them). The police indicate the additional officers were responding to the shoot out but they appear within minutes of the initial shoot.
Police further confirms that those who died were all members of the airport unit while those who arrived later were not.
Obtaining the unedited footage from the airport or from the police departments own servers using Hacking or Data Retrieval reveals it was the second group of officers who killed the airport cops. As they secure the scene officers are seen removing the bundle of drugs hidden by Mendez & Cooper.
Narcotics indicates that there have been more drugs imported into City recently. Talking to the right drug smugglers and a 1 point spend turns up tales of the airport police involved in the shoot out turning a blind eye in return for a money or drugs.
Evidence collection at the airport can turn up physical evidence that was missed by the Scene of Crime Officers can turn up shell casings and blood traces which indicate that Mendez & Cooper weren’t guilty. If the PCs are able to get into the police evidence locker they can also obtain this information.
If this is made public the police revise their story. Mendez & Cooper are presented as heroes, who tipped of the police to the corruption at the airport and who were hiding the drugs to use as evidence. All charges are dropped in exchange for Mendez & Cooper maintaining the lie (which they happily will and they soon get promotions).
A major fast food corporation, Beef Emperor, tells the world that they pay their workers a fair wage. What they don’t tell them is that they find a host of ways to skim money from their salary through devious means.
Employees are expected to pay for their uniforms and pay weekly cleaning fees (the corporation insists that they are the only ones who can clean the uniforms). They regularly update or make minor adjustments to the uniforms, taking the costs from their salary.
Each fast food branch is monitored using a specially written computer program to maximise work hours versus cost. In order for a branch to be profitable staff are encouraged to work off the clock, either before or after their shift.
Another trick that managers use is to assign tasks to employees in the last few minutes of their shift that they know will take longer, essentially forcing them to work for free. These tasks usually involve cleaning areas of the restaurant, maintaining equipment or moving boxes.
These underhanded tactics skims several thousands of dollars off their employees yearly salaries. Employees are typically too afraid to speak out for fear they will be fired and their minimum wage is better than no wage at all.
Most people turn a blind eye to the employees plight. Reporters, politicians, priests and others who care about the community can hear what is happening and decide to expose Beef Emperor. Corporations with their own fast food companies might also want to damage their rivals reputation.
Corporate Drones, lawyers and punk rockers might work for or be sponsored by Beef Emperor. They can either be troubled by the companies practices or, in order to protect their own income, help cover up their activities.
Confidence Tricksters, criminals and hackers can discover through Banking that the money skimmed from employees is kept in a separate account, the money moved around to prevent the dubious of the company from being too apparent. This makes it vulnerable, allowing the money to be more easily stolen or redistributed to the workers. This just requires them to infiltrate Beef Emperor.
Interview can be used to speak to legal representatives who can let slip some of their secrets but who maintain that everything they do is legal.
Law confirms that why they are following the letter of the law they aren’t always keeping its spirit.
Reassurance can encourage some employees to reveal what they know but they won’t want their name reported and won’t confirm their information publicly. If the PCs reveal their identity the worker will be fired soon after.
Undercover can be used to get a job at a Beef Emperor (which isn’t hard) to witness their practices first hand. This can let the PCs access areas not usually seen by the public but is also hard work.
Exposing just one branch isn’t enough as Beef Emperor could easily put the blame on the branch manager and claim that their actions aren’t representative of the company as a whole.
This will require Bureaucracy, Data Retrieval, Evidence Collection and Hacking to gaining damning documents and figures. They can locate memos from head office clearly indicating their working practices, show that the uniforms change more regularly than any other fast food joint primarily so they can regularly charge a disproportionate fee from employees and that cleaning facility is less cost effective than employees simply cleaning their own uniforms.
Once the PCs have the information the question remains what do they do with it?
Getting the information to the public can be done through NuWeb and media outlets. Beef Emperor lawyers will strenuously deny the claims. If one of the PCs is a lawyer they can take their battle into the courts.
Regardless, once the hard facts are presented the public will become angry. This can shame Beef Emperor into promising they will make changes. Their workers will see a small increase in their salary but they will still struggle to make ends meet.
While the PCs might have done a small amount of good the public will soon forgot and no matter what shady practices Beef Emperor was involved with it doesn’t hurt their profits as people will always want beef burgers.