TABLETOP TALES PRESENTS:
THE SHADOWRUN RUNDOWN #1
“Frippity Froopah Frippety Fray!
I got a frickin’ feeling it’s gonna be a fabulous day!”
I love Dungeons and Dragons and I love pen-and-paper roleplaying. I have been playing these games, more or less, once a week for over three years and I don't ever plan to stop playing. Most of the times I've played Dungeons and Dragons, I have been the Dungeon Master. For those who don't know, a Dungeon Master, a term that is expanded to Game Master for various kinds of games, is the guy who is in charge of telling the story, determining what monsters and characters the other players come across and, in essence, is the god of the world the players explore. As an author, it gives me a chance to flex my creative muscles.
Yet, while Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games can breed a lot of original ideas, it doesn't hurt to fall back on familiar ideas, tropes and characters inspired by works of sci-fi fantasy. I find myself borrowing/parodying from all masters of the imagination; from L. Frank Baum to Frank Oz. Today's subject is a twisted parody of one of one man and the empire he built that defined family friendly entertainment for a generation, Walt Disney.
What is it about Walt Disney that draws inspiration and attention? I suppose it is for a number of reasons: arguably Walt Disney was a genius who managed to tap into the fairy tale world of the past and create timeless films that exude nostalgia. Or maybe its his impressive ability to create/manage a lucrative media empire that grew to be one of the largest controllers of entertainment but control a number of other businesses. Yet, I think what draws me and many others to satire his squeaky clean image is the cult of personality that surrounds him. Walt Disney created an image for himself and his company. The ideals he pursued are quite admirable, but his methods of maintaining this image seem like small-scale fascism with a special security force, strict rules and regulations (for example, if you have tattoos on your arms you have to cover your arms with long sleeves), and a number of secrets and technologies cooked up by a cadre of creative engineers or "Imagineers" that build mechanical men.
There is something about poking fun at the idealistic post World War II America that crumbled under the backlashes of anti-Vietnam sentiment, Water Gate, and the civil rights movement. It is my opinion that the main villain of Bioshock borrows some characteristics from Walt Disney's charismatic personage. And so when it came time to create a unique setting for my Shadowrun game, I decided to create a cyber-punk version of Disney world ruled by a tyrannical animatronic cyborg that is the version of Walt Disney that gives hapless hipsters and sarcastic sotts an intellectual hard-on.
Before we get to the introduction to my first Shadowrun campaign, I should probably explain what the game is about. Shadowrun is is a role-playing game, similar to Dungeons and Dragons but running on a d6 system, set in a near-future fictional universe in which cybernetics, magic and fantasy creatures co-exist. It combines genres of cyberpunk, urban fantasy and crime, with occasional elements of conspiracy fiction, horror, and detective fiction. It is a mix of inspirations ranging from Blade Runner to Ghost in the Shell to the Matrix into an rpg that bubbles with personality and complexity. In fact, the game was and is so complex that I would say learning to run a game, making characters, and just running a single session was one of the most difficult trials of my career as the GM.
Rather than review the game, which is quite advanced but interesting, I want to just expose you guys to some of the material I wrote for the setting. This following is something I acted out to begin our first session.
2062, A Recovered Rehearsal of Paul Kidney’s Return Speech
[A 50-60 year old man’s head fades into screen. He has greying black hair, a curt clean mustache, and a brilliant white smile.]
Howdy there, folks. It’s your best pal, Paul Kidney. You probably know me for my old films from Snow White and the Seven Midgets or my old friend, Rick Rabbit. You also probably know me for my city and theme parks, like Lilliput Island, where a man always feels a hundred feet tall.
And heck, you might of heard rumors of my most recent invention, the first Prosthetic Body. Not only am I the system’s creator. I’m its first client.
[The camera zooms out give a full shot of his body. His neck and head sit in a dome atop a slim cyborg body. His eyes are black and seem to sparkle. His cyborg body is a tin grey color and wears a black suit, a white shirt, and a black tie with a silver bunny ear pin. The film begins in black and white and fades into SUPER HD color.]
Someday through a combination of advanced biowares, nanotechnology and cyberization anyone with a debilitating illness or an aging body will be able to trade out their old models for something that is timeless, ageless and classy. For now, we look to the future for more incredible advances in the world of Cyberization.
For me, invention is like a wheel, turning with time and with great minds as its spokes. At the center of this wheel, is Liliput Island, The Land of Tomorrow. Truly, my greatest achievement and fruition of my works, Lilliput is the invention of imagination, a dream. As of today, the island’s initial construction is complete and it is opening to new immigration, after a decade of the world waiting and watching. I’m proud to say the island is a shining example of good ol’ America made innovation and a testament to our proud heritage. To all you visitors and potential Liliputians, let me tell you what you’re in for.
You’ll arrive at Destination Station, an airport and car park that uses the world’s biggest advances in travel to bring you to the dream of imagination. You will then be taken across the New Golden Gate Bridge via one of our bullet trains to the main island. Visitors can visit the main island for free, that’s my gift to you. The main island is the world’s premier city with amazing buildings like the Kidney Globe and plenty of sights to see that remind one of old California. From Hollywood Blvd. to American Mall of Tomorrow, Lilliput has more than enough to warrant a visit. I bet most of you are more interested in our theme parks?
First up we’ve got Main Street, U.S.A. No japs allowed of course. [Wink] What?
[He looks at the crew]
What in sam hill was wrong with that line? What do you mean? I’m not racist? I made a fucking movie about a singing negro, remember? Christ.
[He throws his scotch on the ground]
America has really gone to the dogs. Troglodytes and midgets! It’s worse than wops!
What are you looking at, underbite? Turn that goddamn camera off! Where’s my drink? Who’s ass to I have to get real scotch instead of this synthesized piss?!
2072, Modern Day Liliput
It all began with a man’s head in a block of ice. That head belonged to the creator of America’s most beloved cartoon rabbit, Ricky Rabbit. That head belonged to a man who built an entertainment irony with the words, “Frippity Froopah Frippety Fray! I got a frickin’ feeling it’s gonna be a fabulous day!” That head belonged to Paul Kidney. He died way back in 1968 after an assassination attempt by a group of errant hippies. As per his wishes, his head and spine were preserved in a solution of his own design and to be kept frozen in a top secret location, the Kidney Vault, until the technology was ready for his return. Many believed this to be an urban legend or myth.
That was until nearly a hundred years later, the Austrian mega corporate dragon, Reluc, owner of Family Figments, inherited a map to the Kidney Vault from Dunkelzhan. Inside this vault Reluc found the original prints and designs of Kidney Entertainment’s films, inventions, product, designs and so much more. There was also a metal box. Inside that metal box was a head; the head of Paul Kidney.
It was July 4th, 2062 when Paul Kidney made his first broadcast in over a century. Reluc had invested in one of Kidney’s designs for a life-sustaining system that could basically make a man into a machine and the results were staggering. Paul Kidney’s head, attached to a cyborg body, announced his company’s merger with Family Figments into Kidney Global. He also announced that his most ambitious dream, Lilliput Island, had been completed; “Where every man will feel twice as tall.”
Lilliput Island is an artificial island, built by Family Figments, just off the coast of the California Free State. The island is an autonomous city nation owned today by Kidney Global and is one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. The island city is connected to seven smaller islands, six of which are theme parks, and is itself home to a number of tourist attractions from Kidney’s Hollywood to Kidney’s Star Trek museum (right across the street from the Kidney’s Star Wars museum). The main island is 47 sq. miles and has a population of 5 million people, with an average of about 150, 000 tourists visiting the parks at any given time, and has heavily mixed population. Many companies find the island quite attractive for running business since there are no taxes, but they do have to put up with the various rules about appearance that Kidney Global applies to them. To enforce the island’s laws and keep the streets, or at least the streets with Kidney businesses, clean- in more ways than one- are the Lilliput Street-Sweepers. The Street-Sweepers are a semi-military police force trained by Kidney Global to be clean, polite and always have a smile on their face; even when blasting away a street gang that can’t take a hint that they shouldn’t be hanging out in front of the Kidney Mall. As aforementioned, the two most powerful figures on the island are the co-heads of Kidney Global. Paul Kidney is the brains, personality and face of Kidney Global. Reluc seems to just be the money behind the company, but his ambitions are considered highly suspicious- being a dragon and all.
So, what does this mean for Shadowrunners?
It means opportunity for anyone willing to work discretely and with style. There are two sides to Lilliput. There is what the Lilliputians call the “Main Streets”, territories that are heavily occupied by Kidney businesses and kept “clean” by the Street-Sweepers. Then, there is everywhere else. Sure, when the other corps came to Lilliput they made sure to make their corporate zones and neighborhoods look nice but, like an urban cancer, many of these areas have become ghettos or worse thanks to several counter culture movements on the islands. It is in these areas that you’ll find most of your shadows. Not to say there isn’t a dark side to the Main Streets of Lilliput. After all, what’s more disturbing; a fake smile or a glare?