Prince of Inside-Os

tumblr_m6s7x5kSCp1rw7t9oo1_500Author’s Note: So, as the last time I did this proved at least moderately popular, here is the teaser for the second mission in my Shadowrun: Hong Kong RPG. Different fixer, different contact in the party, but hopefully still entertaining.


To the average work-a-day slug, the Matrix is something they can hold inside their lives; a sliver of experience they can wedge between ‘playing with the kids’ and ‘getting that report to Mr. Hito’. It is comprised of a banal series of bank nodes and entertainment vids; ordering groceries and indulging in porn and the rest of the boring, simplistic nonsense that, apparently, passes for existence for the balance of metahumanity.

That, though, is the shallow end. That’s the Matrix kiddie pool, complete with lifeguards and water-wings. Those who know how to swim quickly learn that there’s a whole new world beyond that little rope with the blue-and-white buoys. The deep matrix, the dark matrix; there be monsters.

Well, not really; monsters are rare. There be pirates, more accurately. Pirates like you. There are entire kingdoms of pirates down there in the deep Matrix, organized into little islands of hackers, runners, and other people of the shadows, lurking beneath the glow and bustle of the shallow Matrix like predators of the deep.

Your particular pirate island is a place called Inside-OS (get it?). It’s a hacker collective, a combination social group and non-profit criminal organization whose primary qualification for membership is finding it in the first place. The VR landscape of Inside-OS is a comical re-imagining of the Smurf’s village from antique 20th century animation, but infused with every geek reference from Wayne Manor to a TARDIS to the mighty throne of Neil the Ork Barbarian.

Here, you are a warrior prince, a noted member – Slayer of ICE, hacker of mainframes, He Who Must Not Be Dissed. When you stride among the many smurfs (the lowest ranking members – very limited access), they part for you like the Red Sea before Moses. You can, if you wish, behead any of them with your digital katana, banning them from Inside-OS forever (unless they hack their way back in, at which point they are immediately promoted to ‘member’ and can use their own avatar). All told, there are 352 members of Inside-OS and, of them, 278 are smurfs – eager to help, eager to impress, hungry for more respect in this elite pirate kingdom of the deep matrix.

You maintain a pagoda on the outskirts of the node. Surrounded by moat and drawbridge and guarded by stone lions that flank the entrance, this is ‘where’ you spend much of your time when jacked in. It is your electronic home, more personal to you than that hole of an apartment in Mong Kok where your meat-self is forced to exist.

You are in the process of meditating over the best way to hack into the Mitsuhama mainframe to send your mother a birthday card (just as joke) and yet avoid getting her in trouble when the lions out front roar out a challenge – you have a visitor. There, standing at the edge of the drawbridge, is simplistic stick-figure man wearing a hat in the style of a telegram delivery man from the early 20th century. He (though ‘he’ is a stretch – this is clearly a program) is holding a hypercard; its clean, and postmarked as being from Snafu, your fixer. You take the card, and you’re linked to a live-chat that’s being bounced through a half-dozen nodes from Hamburg to New Dehli.

Snafu’s face is an impressionist painting that shifts in color and hue as you look at it. Today, it’s a Van Gogh’s Starry Night. “‘Sup, holmes?”

“On the clock.” You respond. “Go.”

“Well, I got something for you that I think you’re gonna like. Deets are on the card, baby, but here’s the precis: Big deal set to go down between Hildebrandt-Kleinfort-Bernal and Renraku Computer Systems; big cheese at Renraku is set to have a face-to-face with big cheese at HKB at the Renraku corporate retreat – an estate near the top of Victoria Peak. Swank place, tight security – check the specs.”

“Okay, but what’s the job?”

You can’t tell, but you think Snafu is smiling. “Criminal landscaping.”


“Serious. Mr. Johnson wants you to bust in and move some shrubs around, mess with a few statues, replace a few rocks – shit like that. He’s got a whole presentation on the card, man – not making this up.”

Typically, in the rest of the shadow world, your fixer doesn’t know what the job is. Snafu is a hacker, though, and being nosy is his job, so you aren’t offended. You’ve known him for years and he’s a proven friend. If he says that’s what the Johnson wants, then that’s what the Johnson wants. “So, we break in, change around this garden…”

“…without anyone knowing. Best to do it just before the meeting starts, right, so they don’t have time to inspect and, you know, redecorate again.”

“Dude, don’t tell me how to do my job.” You scowl at Starry Night for a second, “So that’s it? Break in, redecorate so they don’t notice or don’t have time to change it, then get out. That’s it?”


“What’s the pay?”



“No shit. Betcha they don’t pay their actual landscapers half that.”

You turn the card over in your hands – on the back, the icon to connect with Mr. Johnson is there, glowing faintly. “Man, I’d be an idiot to turn this one down.”

About aahabershaw

Writer, teacher, gaming enthusiast, and storyteller. I write stories, novels, and occasional rants.

Posted on April 24, 2013, in Gaming and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Fantastic intro piece, but I have to ask – do your players not run a mile from this shouting “We’re being set up!”? 🙂

    • Hong Kong has a wonderful way of preventing that (though it doesn’t occur – my players recognize that getting into trouble is what makes things fun, anyway). The concepts of guanxi and face allow me to say this: you don’t have to take this job, but by not taking it you are insulting your Fixer, who will then be less inclined to give you work in the future. Furthermore, you are alienating this employer, who will in turn not only not employ you themselves, but won’t recommend others to employ you, either. So, you know, you can not take the job (oh, and by the way, this is a game about *shadowrunning*, not cowering in terror at a potential set-up) and, I dunno, sit on your asses somewhere.

      Or you can man up and take it, and earn major face by not only pulling it off, but dodging the double-cross in the process.

      Honestly, though, players who run away from potential conflict are not players I want to game with. Conflict is fun, and the game is about fun. I’m promise not to make it un-fun (by cheating, giving you things you can’t handle, killing you for no reason, etc.), and you promise to do stuff to make things more fun (make risky choices, obey the rule of cool, seek out danger, play to your character, etc.). Together, it all works out.

  2. I can think of a few reasons, but haha, what a concept!

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