Secrets of the City

Histories and Hopes
The City of Amistad Aka The Black Box

Note: A timeline of the sixth world follows here, but one that is very, VERY far from extensive. There are more full timelines on time that cover the very many events I am missing, and when you have the time I recommend scanning through one of them. However, what I am writing now will give you a workable understanding of the situation. None of the events of my campaign will hinge on anything I not included in my timeline, although it is entirely conceivable that they may come up on their own.

Late 1990s-Megacorps rise in power and influence, and gain rights to extraterritoriality, granting them sovereign status within their own property.

2010-VITAS pathogen wipes out 25% of world population.

2011-The Awakening: children begin to be born with “deformities” (they were later understood to be elves and dwarves). Supernatural events occur worldwide, dragons appear, and certain humans realize magical potential within themselves.

2012-The Great Dragon Dunzelkahn announces himself for a television interview during which he explains the situation: magic enters and leaves the world in cycles.
Over the next decade, the United States (as well as other nations) fractures into several smaller states, among which are California Free, several Native American nations, and the elven nation of Tir Tairngire.

2021-10% of adult world population suddenly metamorphoses into trolls and orks. Over the next few decades, world turmoil ensues, due at different points to economic collapse and catastrophic technological events.

2055-Matrix crash hits worldwide. All computers everywhere are rendered useless. While the world does recover from this and eventually rebuilds the matrix. Two new realities enter into the world: sentient artificial intelligences and technomancers: those capable of accessing and controlling technology without any device. Both are considered threats…and often prove themselves to be so, although their struggle for legitimacy is ongoing. Many AI organizations are fighting a promising campaign to gain SIN rights.

2057-The Great Dragon Dunzelkahn is elected president of the UCAS (the country made of the remains of the former USA and Canada), but he is shortly assassinated. Under his will, his vast wealth is dealt out in ways inscrutable to others, perhaps enacting some final plan of his.

2075-Now. I know how huge a jump it is between 2057 and 2075, but really I don’t know what details are incredibly important, but I think you can get the general ideas: the world has been reshaping. New magics and technologies have bred new loves, hates, crimes, and law. Corporations now have their own laws and their own private security forces to ensure them. They need discreet, expendable assets to fight their secret wars for supremacy. They need you. Get ready, everyone. Start running. But first you need to know where you are. You are now in the city of Amistad, likely trying to unlock the secrets of the big Black Box. And it has many secrets indeed, chief among them the following: where did it come from? But I should start at the beginning. (Keep in mind that everything I write in the next sections is considered common knowledge. I.e. these are all things it would be reasonable for your character to know.)
March 7th 2065, the world was shocked by the events that surrounded a small area halfway along the coast in the disputed area between Tir Tairngire and California. It was shocked at the size of the explosion that broke open the northern wall of the city. It was surprised by the organization displayed by the multicultural test subjects who orchestrated their escape. But mostly the world was surprised because before then it did not know that the city of Amistad existed.
Early in the afternoon, smoke billowed from the horizon north of California and south of Tir Tairngire. Small military forces were dispatched from both nations, who came upon a sight that astounded them. A great black cube a half mile of each side stood dark and imposing not far from the shores of the pacific, and just outside its northern walls a battle was being waged. Or rather…it had just been finished. The denizens of the city had recently broken out, and by the time military forces arrived, they were standing bleary eyed in the sunlight and assessing their new situation: where were they? How did they get here? What should they do about the armies approaching from either side?
Indeed, the city was a mystery, to its inhabitants as much as to its discoverers. No one knew where it had come from, or how long it had been there. No one knew its purpose or its origins. Or at least no one was saying. The people now inhabiting it claim themselves to be test subjects, but offer no explanation as to what the tests were designed to prove. According to what they say themselves, even they do not know what happened to them before they worked together to defeat their captors (none of whom have ever been found), or where they came from before that. Judging by appearance and known languages, the test subjects were picked up from all around the globe, but for what purpose? As far as they have said, they did not know.
What they knew for sure was that they had one another. Out of fear of the sources massing outside the Black Box, it inhabitants withdrew inside and began to sure up their defenses, occasionally sending small parties out to communicate. Remembering the name of the slave ship whose captives once fought for and then legally won their freedom, they gave the city a name: Amistad. The city of freedom. They believed they would stand as a shining example to the dispossessed and abused in the world. They believed they would be joined by thousands, becoming a spearhead in a new movement dedicated to breaking the hold the megacorps had on the sixth world. They believed that soon the world would show them they were not alone. This promptly did not happen.
Neither Tir Tairngire nor California admitted any knowledge of the city, nor did they order the (slowly growing) armies at its borders move towards it. They knew that doing so could prove an act of war, but it has been speculated that one of the countries is the true reason behind the city’s existence, but did not want to admit to the kidnapping of and experimentation upon thousands of people. The megacorporations had no such fears. Seeing that no government lay any claim upon Amistad, they viewed the situation as an opportunity to gain themselves a free, self-sufficient (if slightly damaged) arcology, with untold research and developments held within. The only thing standing in their way was a ragtag band of confused escapees, right?
The many ensuing difficulties stemmed from two sources. First, the denizens of Amistad, proved to be astonishingly coordinated, and defended themselves competently from the many cursory incursions attempted in the early days after the breakout. No one who was not wanted in the city got farther than the outer wall. By the time the megacorporations realized the necessity for full scale assaults, they began to encounter a second issue: one another. Soon major forces funded by Renraku, EvoCorp, and Ares Macrotechnology realized they were on a collision course for Amistad. The only eventuality was the first true war between megacorps if they did not stop. And so…they stopped. But many did not leave. Rather, curiosity with the city flourished, and with the creation of AmSec, so did the city itself.
The reasons Amistad’s citizens created Amistad Security (or AmSec, for short), have been argued since it first happened. Some say they realized that the world was coming one way or another, so they figured they had best find a way to control the influx of outside attention. Some said that it was necessary for them to remain in the city and protect its secrets. After all, every city needs food and water, and the supplies inside could not last forever. (Of course, this begs a few questions. What is the purpose of building an arcology that is not self sufficient? Where were they getting their resources before the breakout occurred?) Again, no one knows for sure, but what they do know is that AmSec holds a firm grasp on the city that it has no intention of releasing.
AmSec holds tight control of the inside of the arcology, taking care to be aware of who and what goes inside. They fund themselves primarily by leasing real estate in and around the city to megacorps, but to a lesser extent by taxation of goods entering and leaving the area. The abundant energy resources provided by the arcology’s generator, and prospect of finding new technologies within the city make it a desirable location for megacorps who have flocked to the area and set up offices and research and development facilities. Of course, where these powers go, so did workers. Factories mean workers, families, and all the comforts that people with money expect to be able to spend it on. It also means shadowrunners, many eager to find a city where they will have a clean slate and the promise of paid work.
By January 2075 the city is now a thriving hub of progress, research, scum, and villainy that any modern city would be proud to call itself. The search for secrets continues, but AmSec is keeping a tight hold on things. The city approaches its tenth anniversary since the world learned of its existence, and a celebration is in the works. If anything has been discovered, no one is talking. Yet. As it stands, the secrets of the Black Box have yet to be revealed.

Facts to keep in mind
To the west of the city are its docks, which supply many of its needs from outside and take out many of its exports. Tir Tairngire and California maintain military presences at a distance from the city, to the north and south respectively. Members of the military are not allowed inside the city on official business, although each country maintains an embassy within the city walls. To the north of the Tir Tairngire army is a deep forest. East lies a small airstrip that suffices for passengers entering and leaving the city. All ships entering or leaving are subject to inspection, and any who refuse may be detained for investigation.
Immediately outside the walls of the arcology, low income housing and less well funded factories sprawl, with quality of living decreasing the farther away they get from the city. AmSec mostly upholds its presence within the city itself, as well as at the docks and airstrip to inspect incoming and outgoing cargo. For the sake of security, legality is Amistad is standard, and criminal SINs are restricted here as anywhere else. Of course, there are always ways…
Within the arcology, a large tower extends from the ground to the ceiling. This houses AmSec, as well as the city’s power generation system and subject to change quantum computer, another valuable draw of the city. Because of the power of this rare computer, AmSec has proved extremely wary of any AI presence inside the city. Also, the closer a building is to the center, the better its access to power and processing capability. Hence, the more valuable the property. Buildings inside are attached to the ceiling, inside the tower, and along the walls. While most arcologies are built to optimize space, the Black Box has unusual amounts of empty areas inside itself.
Geocite is notably spotty inside the arcology. Guides are often necessary due to how unreliable maps can be. It is speculated though unconfirmed that this is an effect of the technology that kept the city concealed until the events of the breakout.
No members of AmSec have displayed magical ability, and in order to form a proper police force, Cinque quickly determined it would be necessary to supplement their numbers with specially chosen magic users, all under the special detachment known as the Quincies (named after John Quincy Adams, who successfully defended the Amistad slaves in court) was formed. These officers form a very small minority, and only those among them who prove trustworthy are alloed to rise in rank.
Joseph Cinque: Named after the leader of the slave revolt on the original ship, this troll is at the same time the leader of AmSec and de facto leader of the city. In ten years his leadership has never been challenged, or if it has no one who is not a member of AmSec has known it yet. The man is quiet, intelligent, and very well read. He keeps things close to the chest, and in ten years has never revealed anything he has not wanted to.
Leila Talbott: Second in command of AmSec, and leader of the Quincies, Leila is not an original inhabitant of the city. She enjoys her position to a conspicuous degree, and many have been forced to wonder how much she knows about the city’s secrets. Rumors that she suffers from a minor form of HMVV infection (colloquially known as vampirism) have yet to be substantiated.
Alexandra Twoshadow: Leader of the Tir Tairngire forces outside of the city. This Native American elf is remarkably young to be in her position. While all agree that she is…eccentric, all are equally assured that she is a shrewd commander when the chips are down.
Cale Anon: Second in command under Twoshadow, this elf is a fine example of the new elven aristocracy that his commander does not belong two. Rumors are that the relationship between the two is strained.
Colonel Ryan Hammond was an experienced, capable veteran considering his retirement when he first arrived in Amistad. That was ten years ago. The man (well, dwarf) swears this is his last year, and the question of who will replace him is somewhat up in the air.
Roger Gibson: Unlike with Twoshadow, the military and diplomatic responsibilities of California are split between two people. Hammond is satisfied to go easily into his retirement with a job well done and no real fuss, but newly assigned ambassador Gibson is determined to use his new position to make a name for himself by unlocking the secrets of the Black Box, and he has not been working very hard to hide it. Or he has, but he has been doing so incompetently. He very badly wants the military behind his back, and has been making motions to get someone close to him in to replace Hammond once the time comes.
Sieg: Owner and operator of the Second Wind, a shadowrunner bar unusually close to the center of the Black Box. Sieg is one of the most effective fixers in the city, but also one of the most discrete. Unusual about the friendly, albeit fast talking man, is that he has a standing offer to his runners: he is willing to forgo part or all of his fee as fixer for information about the ops he sets up for his runners. Usually such a proposal would be refused outright (the key to running is secrecy, after all), but for the fact the Sieg can get you jobs more lucrative than anyone in the business. Also, despite his interest in information, none of his information has ever gotten out…at least to the general public. Whoever he gives his information to isn’t talking, unless he just keeps it for himself.
Balmung: The great dragon Balmung has his offices situated in the upper northeast corner of the city. Part of his office is exposed to the outside by the hole made during the breakout. This may seem a disadvantage, but it allows him to fly freely in and out of the city. He is also known to make use of the city’s ample inside space to attend meetings at other corporation’s offices. His presence in the city is, like many things, a mystery. While never much of a presence on the world stage, in recent years certain investments of his have fallen through, leaving him nearly bankrupt. His business deals in Amistad have been keeping him above water, but it is rumored he came to the city with hopes of discovering and capitalizing on its secrets.

Secrets Revealed
The very, VERY short version

It began with a simple job. Two representatives of EvoCorp, a no-nonsense dwarf code named Grim and his augmented elf partner Legless, wanted an investigation into a failed plan of theirs. Outlast, a biocorp company with its headquarters located on a building on the central spire, has been their target of acquisition for some time now. They arranged for the…inhumation of Martin Shelly, the CEO and founder who was unwilling to sell. It appeared not to have taken. They wanted answers.
Answers came when the players broke into Outlast, and found that he had survived. Or rather two of them had. In a bid to keep himself alive, Mr. Shelly tried every tactic at his disposal. As it stood, two of them worked. His body was kept alive through an imperfect mix of cybernetics and bioware, while a copy of his mind survived as an artificial intelligence in the building’s computer core. The runners decided the man himself was the more valuable ally, and sided with him, ending the life of the AI (and sidling out of their contract with Evo).
Their association with Sieg lead them down many unorthodox paths. At his behest, they protected information (later revealed as AmSec’s list of the city’s missing). On a way to see him, they were attacked by men looking to retrieve a sample of Svafnir’s blood. While investigating, the source was killed by magic and they were traced by the police.
The information all of this was about? A secret the AI had discovered: that there was an underground section to the city that no one had seen. Sieg offered them a deal: I can offer you a distraction to get in there if you let me go with you. As it happened, this was all a part of his plan, as all along he was the great dragon Balmung in disguise.
The city all along was his attempt to create an army of hybrids. Human who at a moment could take draconic form. He has, since the breakout, been trying to regain control. He did something while they were down there. The players do not know what yet. But they know the truth, and AmSec (the visible arm of the remaining subjects) know they know. What happens next is up to them.

Svafnir Tutorial
The Legend of the Snark

GM: So, I imagine that we begin in Seattle, on a Thursday a few weeks before the beginning of the current campaign.  You have been doing some work in the area, and your name is slowly going around in the right circles.  At some point you get a call from one of your local contacts, saying he wants you to come in and talk to someone.  He has a job that…most people wouldn’t be as suited to as you are. This contact’s place is a run down biotech repair shop downtown.

Svafnir:  [He heads over.]
GM:  You arrive a short time later and get waved to the back by a large, gruff gentlemen with wild grey hair tied back so as not to distract from his work.  He is working intently on making some adjustments to an artificial arm that you can tell by a glance is top of the line.  The man it’s attached to is well dressed (probably too much for this area) and doing his best not to pay attention to the disarray around him.  As soon as you enter he perks up. 

Employer: “Ah, yes. Is this the gentleman to which you were referring before?  The…um  Svarnir, was it?”
Svafnir:  Close enough

GM:  He scrunches his nose and shakes his head, as if admitting he were capable of a mistake would be an affront. 

Employer: “Oh, do have a seat, would you.  A man of your size does intimidate when towering over one like this.”

Svafnir:  [Svafnir sits] What’s this about a job?

Employer: "Well, it is true I may have a position open for one with the appropriate…capabilities.  They tell me you are well versed in the field of parazoology.  Is this so?"
Svafnir:  Parazoology. Reagents. I dabble in Botany a bit too.

Employer:  “Well, I shall keep it in mind, should I ever require someone with those skills.  Tell me, if you would.  What do you know about a beast called ‘the Snark’?”  

GM:  From off the top of your head, you are able to remember that the creatures are both extremely uncommon and very difficult to capture, for reasons that are unclear. 

Svafnir:  Yeah, I recall them. Very rare. Very hard to catch.
Employer:  “So I have heard myself.  Rare.  Rare, you see, means exceptional, and I pride myself on being a man of exceptional taste.  As such, I would consider acquisition of such a creature beyond appropriate.  I would of course offer appropriate compensation for such a service, if anyone were so inclined to offer it…”

GM: The large man attending to his arm stands and begins walking briskly past you. 

Contact: “And that’s my cue to exit.  Can’t talk about what you don’t hear.  Good luck, kid.”

Svafnir:  I’m usually hired to kill monsters. Bringing it in alive will be a change. But i can manage, if the pays good…

Employer:  “Assuming it is brought in unharmed and discretely, and let me tell you I can stress neither of those points too fervently, then the compensation can be more than adequate, I assure you.  That does mean you will agree to this assignment?”

Svafnir:  Yeah. Count me in. Now, any suggestion as to where I might start looking for this Snark?

GM:  “As it happens, I do believe I can offer some assistance there…” [he reaches into his coat pocket and begins unfolding a laminated piece of paper he then places on the table before you.  You see it is an extravagant flyer for The Carracas Circus: Finest Magical acts on the continent!]  “The Carracas are known for their displays of oddities, and a recent tour of Malaysia has them claiming they have a Snark in possession and are bandying it about like a toy.  They arrive in Seattle in several days.  Unless you want to take a flight overseas yourself, this seems to be the most viable option available.”

Svafnir:  I’d be better off catching him when the tour reaches here. Since I have some time I’d like to prepare for when they do. Do you know anyone I can talk to about the Carracas? Maybe an event planner? Someone who will know where they’ll be and what the event will be like.

Employer:  “If at all possible I would prefer to keep my hand out of this.  Word of such a deed coming back to me would be rather unbecoming, I must say.” 

Svafnir:  You’re going to need to give me more than that. [Svafnir discretely makes hand signs to cast a control thought spell.]

Employer: [He leans back in his chair and inspects his recently modified arm absentmindedly.]  “I must say, however, this is important to me. I would much prefer not to let this chance go while it is here. I have an old friend from the university who works at the city council.  There is a good chance he has his hands in the permits a circus would want before coming to town. He would probably be able to give you some information.”  [He jots down a name and contact number and slides it across to you. The information reads Chris Hael and contains the appropriate contact information.]  “Just do try to keep my name out of things if at all possible.”

Svafnir:  Of course. No one will know. Thankyou.

Employer: "Should you manage to obtain the Snark, bring it back here and inform the proprietor of the establishment. He will take care of all the details after that."

Svafnir:  Alright. Will do. I’m going to go see this contact now. I’m also going to research into the Snark. I can’t remember much about it. Wouldn’t even know how to recognize it.

Employer:  “I take that as only a testament to its value” [he chuckles to himself]. “The rarer the beast, the more it is worth.  Godspeed, though.  I would so like to see this venture successful.” 

GM: You sense a weight to his last statement, but not enough of one the really perceive it as a threat.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir goes to find the contact.]

GM:  It’s a hop skip and a jump over to an old building now serving as the government center for non-corporatized Seattle.  As you approach you see an ork lazily shouldering a rifle next to the door, under a sign that reads “Please check all weapons before entry.”

Svafnir: [Svafnir approaches the guard.] I’d like to see Chris Hael.

Orc Guard:  “Hey there, pal.” he says disinterestedly. “Leave all your guns, blades, and offensive talismans before you head inside.  You’ll get them back when you leave.”
[He takes the weapons you hand him and waves you inside.]

Svafnir:  [Svafnir hands him him his longsword, knife, and rifle] Alright, no problem. [Proceeds inside]

GM: The building is old but well maintained, an old holdover from the early days when the city was not overrun by magic and hypertech. Pretty soon you see a sign telling you the location of the office you are looking for on the second floor. 

Svafnir: [Svafnir examines the sign for the office number and proceeds.]

GM: When you reach the door you see it closed, but there is a light on inside behind the frosted glass.
Svafnir: [Knocks]

Chris:  (After a brief pause)  “Uh, yes?  Come in.”
Svafnir: [Svafnir enters] Chris Hael?
GM:  As you enter his eyes widen. He is a lanky, someone overworked man who has clearly been overworked in his position. 

Chris: “Yes, sir. That is who you are speaking to. I..don’t believe I have any appointments at the moment.  May I know with whom I am speaking?”

Svafnir: My name’s Svafnir. You can call me “Sev”. Sorry to intrude. I heard you are the person to see about the Carracas Circus coming to Seattle. I have some questions. Firstly where the event is to take place.

Chris: [He eyes you curiously at this.]  “Yes, well, I was involved with much of their official documentation before entering the city, my information is limited.  I can tell you they will be performing a bit away from the city proper. They need a great deal of space for their operation and the urban sprawl is somewhat unsuited.”  [He describes a slightly less urbanized area in a park outside the center of the city.] 

Svafnir: Very good. How long they going to be here for?

Chris: "Two weeks once they arrive, which by my information is in two days."

Svafnir: Shows run every day? Is that correct?
Chris: "That is correct.  Once a day and twice on weekends, in the morning and evenings."

Svafnir: Any idea what kind of events they will have? I hear they specialize in oddities other circuses would kill for.

Chris: [His expression grows evermore suspicious as this conversation goes on.]  “Well, you know, they do the typical circus stuff.  They did need some special permits for some of the exotic animals they are going to be bringing through here.  If I may ask, what exactly is this all about?”

Svafnir: Well you see thats why I’m here. I represent a local animal rights group and exotic animals are of particular concern to us. We want to make sure they have the proper documentation and approval to handle any such animals. An inventory of what they have and what they will be doing would be helpful. You seemed like the person to go to since you have been working with the circus for when the tour arrives here.

Chris: "Well, I can appreciate your concerns, and as the man who personally handled this documentation, I can personally tell you that they are complying with all Seattle standards and all the cities they visited previously say they are up to par.  I don’t think you have anything to be concerned about here."

Svafnir: Oh well thankyou. That is of great comfort to my organization and myself.
Its just…well…I heard this rumor.

Chris:  [He raises an eyebrow.]
Svafnir:  Is it true that the Carracas has among its menagerie a living Snark?
Because if so that is a matter within itself.
Chris:  “Well, I can’t remember the entire manifest off the top of my head, but yeah, I think I remember seeing a Snark on there when I was checking things over.”

Svafnir:  Oh well then. I don’t mean to bother you further as you have already been so helpful, but if that is the case I may need to inquire further about this snark. You see snarks are incredibly rare. No one really know that much about them. As such it raises all sorts of ethical questions. How intelligent it is. If it experiences anxiety with handling. All these things are important, and need to be addressed if the creature is to be showcased. Perhaps.. it might help if you could tell me what they plan to do with the snark. Or what any of there exhibits might be like, just to get an idea. That is if you know anything of course.

Chris:  "Listen, I hear where you’re coming from, but I only have so much information.  I know none of the acts involve anything dangerous or painful and they are all kept comfortably when not performing.  I leave the heavy science and philosophy to other guys.  If it exhibited self awareness, we might be having a different conversation, but none of the information I have indicates that it’s anything other than a highly rare dracoform.
Svafnir:  Alright then. Well you have been very helpful. Thankyou for your time. Is there anyone I might talk to incase my people want further information? Someone who will be working more directly with the circus?

Chris:  “Well, I’m sorry to say I can’t give you much more.  These guys are pretty self sufficient.  They come in, set up, and get out themselves.  City government only gets involved if there is some sort of problem.”

Svafnir:  Right. Well, I’m sure all is well. Thank you and good-day

GM:  He gives you a quick wave as you head out the door.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir leaves and picks up his weapons. He decides that the only thing left to do is research before the circus arrives. So he heads to the library.]

GM: It is just about after noon. You commit 6 hours to researching the snark.  You find a wealth of books that mention them offhand, speculating that they are rumors or jokes to send annoying grad students on wild goose chases.  Every now and again you come across a reliable report of a sighting. There are a few facts they all have in common: one is that the snark is incredibly adept at concealing itself somehow.  Many researchers followed them for some time only to see it turn a corner and suddenly become untraceable.  Something else that is consistent is that in the very few cases where the snark did not attempt concealment, it invariably attacked with an acid gland in its mouth, used when the creature is agitated.  You also get a rough description: a long, green, reptilian body with four squat legs that allows it to move along the ground.

Svafnir:  [Satisfied with his research on the Snark, Svafnir decides to read about the Carracas Circus for an hour or two.]

GM:  They are a well known group who specialize in unusual animal acts.  They travel very far and wide, which is part of the reason they pick up such strange creatures.  That is all you manage to pick up.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir concludes his research and leaves the library. He returns “home” to rest for the night.]

Svafnir:  [Svafnir goes to check the site the circus is to be at.]

GM:  It’s in a wide clearing in one of the few park left in Seattle.  The ground is fairly clear as there are events here often, but there is so much urbanization that where they are performing won’t be to far away from the buildings of the city proper.  Only a few hundred feet away are tall buildings quickly giving way to skyscrapers.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir decides he’s done about all the preparation he can. At least, all he can think of. And so he returns home to rest and wait for the circus’ arrival.]

GM:  From the flyer he knows that they have two shows the next day.  One at eleven in the morning, and the other at seven at night.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir goes to the grounds for the 11am show]

GM:  By now the area is quite changed.  An enormous tent has been erected, children and their parents are milling about, and all manner of circus folk are going about their business in preparation for the coming event.

 Svafnir:  [Svafnir approaches the hub for admission.]

GM:  A cabbage-smelling stage hand is there doling out tickets to the masses. 200 NY each, which is exorbitant but appropriate if these people meet up to their reputation.

Svafnir:  Hi, I’d like one for the 11 show please.

Stagehand:  [He rips off a ticket and waves you to the door.]  “Enjoy the show…sir.”

Svafnir:  Thankyou [hands over the 200 and takes the ticket]. [Proceeds to the door.]

GM:  You head inside and see the structure is largely supported by the seating that rings the outside.  The tent is a wide circle, with a few other doors leading off to areas you can’t see from where you are.  People are filing into their seats, and some large trolls keeping them from walking to the center.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir looks for a seat which he feels is a good vantage point to get the best view of the whole area.]

GM:  You pick a seat near the door you entered from and up high, where you have a clear view of the area, the people around, and all of the extra doors that enter into the main tent.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir waits for the event to begin.]

GM:  About fifteen minutes pass as more people come in and find their seats.  The event is pretty packed, this being their first show.  Finally, lights dim and the ringmaster appears, a tall elf in ludicrous makeup, who floats a few inches off the ground and gets everyone excited for the coming show. A little while longer passes and the show begins. The show is a wondrous display of acrobatics and animal training (with every now and again a trick assisted by magic that you are probably the only one to notice).  Jumping owlbears, a swarm of intelligent rats that make themselves into shadow puppets, and a fire dancer deftly moving around a hellhound.  At the end of the show they pull out the big guns.  Everything goes dark and the ringmaster appears in a flash:

Ringmaster:  “Now, ladies and gentlemen, comes a wonder you have only heard of in legend.  The beast from the east.  The one of its kind.  Everyone, I present to you-THE SNAAAAARK!”

GM:  Colored lights flash and music wub wub wubs away.  A dwarf stands before a large wooden cube.  She walks around, making a show of it, and every now and again knocks on one of the sides.  Whenever she does, at the exact location where her hand hits, an acidic hole gets burned and the snark snakes its way out before making another hole and going back inside.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir becomes especially attentive. His eyes do not leave the snark even for a second, noting every movement it makes.]
GM: You can see it has a malleable body, like a squid, so it can fit through small areas.  This explains how it is so consistently able to hide. By the end of the show the box is destroyed and the Snark coiled around her arm.  She bows and the crowd erupts with applause. She then returns to the farthest door to the right, and the show is over.
Svafnir:  [Svafnir looks around for someone from the event staff he might talk to.]

GM:  Some of the performers are outside once the show is over, accepting thanks from the families and thanking them for coming out.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir approaches the elf ringmaster.] Hello, I work for the city. I’m from the office of Chris Hael. I don’t know if it was you he spoke to, or perhaps one of your other staff members, but he collaborated extensively with your organization for this event. First of all i just wanted to say it was a spectacular show.

Ringmaster:  [He takes a step back and squints at you.]  “Well, thank you.  Thank you.  We always appreciate people enjoying our work.  I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, but you don’t exactly look like the kind of person to work in city government.”

Svafnir:  Oh no thats fine I get that a lot. I’m a close personal assistant of Mr. Hael. I do a lot of “field work” so to speak for him. He’s usually confined to a desk, so thats where I come in.  He couldn’t make this show so he sent me. He hopes to make it before the tour sets out though.

Ringmaster:  “Well, I can appreciate that, but he never said anything about anyone coming out.  In fact I got the impression that we were only going to hear something from him if there was some sort of problem, and we’ve only been here for a few hours yet.”

Svafnir:  Well actually thats the thing. This is somewhat of a formal visit as well. You see a local animal rights group submitted a complaint. They say you don’t provide proper conditions to your animals, the living spaces are inadequate, and so on. Listen, I know we saw your documentation but as procedure we are technically suppose to perform a more thorough examination of your facilities in situations like these. At some point, I am going to have to see the animals’ living quarters. Just a quick examination. Just to have on the books. You know, red tape and all.

Ringmaster:  [He heaves his head in frustration.]  "God, we get this everywhere.  Alright, look.  I’ll tell the boys to take you in the back.  As long as this is quick.  We want to be ready for tonight and we don’t have much of a break before we need to set up again. [He motions to two heavy set trolls with rifles who he says can take you back to get a look at the animal pens.]

Svafnir:  Thankyou. This won’t be long.

GM:  They are all spaced out evenly and arranged in reverse order of appearance.  The snark is farthest from you, asleep at the center of a large glass cage filled with a type of straw.  There is a fine wire over the air-holes, presumably so it can’t just climb through them to get out.

Svafnir:  Ok so far so good.
[Svafnir looks around the room for all possible entrances to it.]

GM:  There is the way you entered at the back and the way in front that leads to the main area. The tent material is held down pretty firmly, but it might be possible to pull it up.  Doing so, however, is likely to make a great deal of noise.

Svafnir:  So do either of you handle the animals yourselves?

Troll Guard:  “Well, when things get dicey with some of the bigger ones we occasionally have to do some wrestling, but otherwise we leave most of the care to the trainers.”

Svafnir:  Ah well, then I’ll need to speak to one of the trainers. Its crucial for the investigation.

Troll Guard:  “Ooookay, then.  Let’s go see Shmee.”  [They take you outside to the dwarf who performed with the snark earlier.  She is still in the process of waving to leaving families as you come near.]  "Hey, Shmee! “This guy’s here from the city.  Says he has some questions about the situation here.”

Svafnir:  Hi Shmee. The city sent me just to do a quick check of the animals’ living conditions. I’ve already checked their quarters and so far everything seems good. You got the right habitats and feeds. But i need to know about how the animals are taken care of when they are not performing.

Shmee:  “Well, they have it pretty well, truth be told.  All the acts we do with them are based off of what the animals themselves consider play, so it’s not like we force anything on them. They get enough exercise one by one, and rest when they need it. I really don’t know what to tell you.”

Svafnir:  No, thats very good. Thankyou. Actually that has a lot to do with what I wanted to ask you. How often are these animals let out for exercise and such?

Shmee:  “A couple of times a day, and whenever they look like they need it.  It’s different for each of them. On days like today we don’t do as much, but that’s just because two shows a day tends to be work enough for them.”

Svafnir:  Right. Well the reason I ask in particular is for…well..the Snark. I know it has very specific living conditions and theoretically should get out at least every 5 to 6 hours. Are you and your staff meeting that standard?

Shmee:  [She is visibly taken aback at this.]  “Where did you get that information?  The Snark is incredibly rare and I am only one of a very few to have ever come into contact with one.”

Svafnir:  I was prompted extensively by an animal rights organization on what questions they wanted me to ask. You see they lodged a complaint with the city. Thats why I’m here. Exotic animals are of interest to them.

Shmee:  “Well I don’t know what I can say to that, but I know I have never seen anything wrong with the snark and I’ve been with it for months. If anyone knows better I would be glad to listen.”

Svafnir:  Oh well how often does it go out?

Shmee:  “Two to three times a day.  Morning, noon, and night except on weekend when we do two shows.”

Svafnir:  And where do you take it? Does it get exercise on the grounds outside?

Shmee:  [She sighs heavily, beginning to grow tired.]  “Yes, right around here, but close enough that we can have our eyes on it.  Don’t worry, we won’t have an angry snark escaping into the sewer systems or anything.  We know what we’re doing by now.”

Svafnir:  Tell you what. You all seem like great people. And I see no evidence of mistreatment or even discomfort in the animals. I trust you’re all doing the right thing. I’ll conclude my examination here if you can point me to the Snarks exercise area so I can say I saw it myself. Just for procedures sake.

Shmee:  [She takes a quick, cursory glance around and then thinks better of it and begins an actual examination of the area.  After a moment she picks a tree and nods her head.] “Around there.  Around there should work.  The snark likes to climb and that tree is far enough away from the others that I don’t think it would be able to just jump to another one.  Does that satisfy?”

Svafnir:  Yes absolutely. Thank you for your time. Great show. And goodluck in the future.

Shmee:  “Any time.”  [She goes back to what she was doing before, looking relieved.]

Svafnir:  [Having learned sufficiently about the Snarks schedule, Svafnir returned home to rest. He would not return to the circus until the weekend ended. Once monday came Svafnir returned in the morning.]

GM:  It takes some time, but eventually (after the rat swarm takes a few laps around the tent) you see Shmee come out with the snark coiled around her arm.  More of the workers are standing around in various states of work and relaxation, and the large trolls are pacing around absentmindedly with handguns holstered at their waists.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir looks around for the best way to leave grounds in the event he had to exit in a hurry.]

GM:  The area is largely open, but on the opposite side from the opening of the tent is a small stream that might lead somewhere.  To the left is a strand of trees that grows thick but cuts off soon when it turns back to the city other than that, if you ran quickly enough you might be able to make it into an alley, but they would have you in their sights for a while first.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir goes to search by the stream to see where it leads.]

GM:  It’s largely artificial to make the area look more natural.  It comes from out of a one of those large sewer pipes and disappears down a grate near the street.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir attempts to see if he can remove or loosen the grate.]

GM:  It’s not incredibly firm, and after some struggling you manage to pull it free.  You are now standing in the open holding the top of a sewer grate.
Svafnir:  [Svafnir places it back to make it look like its still intact. He then returns to the tree.]
GM:  They are still there.  The snark is snaking itself up and down the tree quickly.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir waits for them to leave. When they do he looks for a good hiding spot near it for the next time they take it out at night.]

GM:  He has several options.  The tree itself has thick leaves at this time of year, so it might be possible to conceal oneself by climbing it.  The vehicles they took to get here are standing near one another, and not too far away from the tents. 

Svafnir:  [He climbs into the tree and waits for night fall.]

GM:  Things are alternately quiet and busy throughout the day, as the circus goes from relaxing to preparations and performing.  Eventually darkness falls and they switch over to the various lighting implements they brought with them.

Svafnir::  [Wait for them to take the Snark out for exercise.]

GM:  Later on in the night, you see the Snark’s handler walk out and stand beneath the tree.  It snakes out from its coiled position around her arm and begins darting up and down the length up the tree, twining itself around branches and stretching itself into various unnatural shapes.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir holds his arm out still and steady like a branch to entice the Snark to climb on to it.]

GM:  It takes a while, but after a few courses up and back the Snark makes its way to Svafnir’s arm and coils around it swiftly.  Almost immediately it starts moving off again but for a moment it’s right there in reach.
Svafnir:  [Svafnir grabs the Snark and makes sure he has a firm hold on it.]
GM:  You get a firm grip around the midsection of the Snark.  It panics and tries to contort its way out of your grasp, but you can feel that it won’t have the brute strength necessary to get away.

Svafnir:  [Making sure the Snark was securely in his grasp, Svafnir leaps from the tree and begins to run in the direction of the stream.]

GM:  Shouts of alarm fill the air, and the cries of the Snark join them. By catching them by surprise you manage to get a decent head start.  By the time you hit the stream people are chasing after you, but at a distance.  A few rounds pierce harmlessly through the air.  Someone manages to score a grazing hit on you, but it catches in your armor and doesn’t slow you down considerably.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir makes a full sprint for the sewer grate.]

GM:  Tired and harried, he manages to make it there and down. There are only a few moments before the pursuers are there, but you have a solid few seconds to use the last of your lead.
Svafnir:  [Svafnir casts flamethrower in an attempt to weld the sewer back shut.]

GM:  A flame erupts before you and the sewer grate glows red hot, expanding and melting.  While the metal is still malleable, it is also extremely hot, so anyone coming up to it will be forced to consider their next move. However, the Snark begins flailing around violently and spitting a green fluid from its mouth.  Your grip holds, but if this hits your face or clothes (or the drain above you) you are going to have serious problems.

Svafnir:  [Svafnir consults his knowledge of parazoology for anything off the top of his head that might help him calm such a creature. He attempts to pacify it.]

GM:  It does not go particularly well.  The Snark continues its wild flailing, and a spray of acid hits you (luckily) square in the chest. It begins burning through your clothes and it may go farther, but it does not have the presence of mind to try hurting you directly.

Svafnir:  [ Unable to calm the creature, Svafnir attempts to position the Snark so that it is less threatening to him, while keeping it securely in his hands.]

GM:  It keeps moving around wildly, but by getting a grip higher up on its mouth you point it away from anything you don’t want damaged.  After enough time goes on, it sort of gives up and loses some energy, ceasing its’ acidic attack.

Svafnir:  [And with that, the Snark did escape into the sewer after all; with of course, Svafnir’s hands tightly around it. Because of his animal eyes Svafnir had no trouble seeing in the dark sewer. So, all he had to do was figure out which way to go in order to come out in the city. Preferably the inner parts.]

GM:  Svafnir carefully makes his way to his contact, looking pretty worse for the wear but not too bad that he can’t move.  You transfer the  Snark, who is taken to a large plastic cage in the back where it quickly passes out due to exhaustion.  Your contact warns you not to stay too long in the city, given that you have been seen by several people and might be identified without much trouble.

Svafnir:  That’s fine but what about payment?

GM:  Your contact shows that he has it in hand on a credstick.

Svafnir:  I trust its the full amount?

GM:  He has a terminal there for you to check.  It is indeed adequate, minus a negligible fee for the man who set up the job.  It looks the man who hired you was not playing around. 

Svafnir:  I’m sorry but have to ask. This is one of the strangest jobs I’ve ever done. What does my employer want with this creature?

Contact:  “Well, you know, people have weird tastes.  I hear this guy has a huge compound somewhere he keeps as an elaborate zoo, but it’s more just a vanity project.  Honestly?  I think he just wants the beast to show it off.  Don’t know to who though, given how incredibly illegal this all is…”

Svafnir:  Well I stole it so thats one. Aside from that, how much more illegal is this exactly?

Contact:  “Well, truth be told I don’t know exactly.  The animal doesn’t belong to any corps or governments, so unless they have it insured for a ludicrous amount I don’t know for sure who this all really affects.  I mean, I’m not really certain whose law you are breaking here, I just know that someone is not going to be happy about it.”

Svafnir:  Right.
Another question. Do you have a personal involvement here?

GM: "No, I’m not really involved except that I’m thinking the time has come
to start getting out of this business.  Stuff just keeps getting weirder
and weirder.  I’m thinking the time has come to sign off."

Svafnir:  Well, goodluck then. I suppose I’ll take my payment now. So long.
[With that Svafnir made a hasty and discrete exit from the city. With no where in particular to go he began to consider his options.]

Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.


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