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Conspiracy Theories

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Wakshaani

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« Reply #30 on: (22:46:17/11-23-11) »
Waiting for the dead tree version is gonna kill me, isn't it?

Grump.

CanRay

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« Reply #31 on: (22:54:00/11-23-11) »
Yep.
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Neurosis

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« Reply #32 on: (01:51:03/11-24-11) »
And that's ignoring the Immortal Elves, who hate dragons with a passion.

Even Harley and Dunkie who got along were of the idea, "I might have to kill him someday..."

Let me just say I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembered that toss-off line from so many years ago. : )
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Stockbrokers ain't no heroes!"~

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Bull

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« Reply #33 on: (01:57:12/11-24-11) »
There are theories about that line, BTW...  I even fed the original FASA theory to Jason when I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, and he loved it. 

However, I won't say anything here, in case he decides to run with it down the line.  But remind me later, Devon, and I'll fill you in.

Bull

Crimsondude

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« Reply #34 on: (01:59:55/11-24-11) »
/grits teeth waiting for reviews of DeeCee

FastJack

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« Reply #35 on: (09:32:04/11-24-11) »
/grits teeth waiting for reviews of DeeCee
Sorry, been trying to read between the lines for more information on PENDRAGON. ;)

nakano

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« Reply #36 on: (11:55:44/11-25-11) »
Finished my first read through of Conspiracy Theories this morning and overall I am impressed.  Very little crunch but a tonne of fluff that makes for an intersting read and gives a solid update of the post Artifacts world.  I very much enjoyed the Washington and London segments and can see trips to both locales for my players in the near future.  Overall the product was money well spent, though I must say personally I hated the style of the cover art. 

Nath

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« Reply #37 on: (10:54:47/11-27-11) »
Conspiray Theories is 176 pages long. It breaks down in two 4 pages-long short stories and one 5 pages-long, 68 pages on conspiracy theories proper, 33 pages on London, 45 pages on Washington, 6 pages of "plot hooks" (half a page long adventure resumés) and 8 pages on magic rituals. Current date is now october 2073.

Conspiracy Theories is the kind of book I like: background. I don't care a lot about gear or NPC book, or adventures. The chapter breakdown is good, clearly an improvement over War! and Spy Games (indeed, YMMV). It provides the same kind of background than the old Threats, in a much denser format that I like better, along with major locations. I still missed quite a few things (more on that below). But overall, I'd rate it as good.

CT somehow pairs with Spy Games. SG featured its own small chapter on conspiracy theories (with Skulls & Bones, Number Stations) and a few pages on London, while CT covers Washington, which would qualify as a hotspot for spies. It also a follow-up to Artifacts Unbound: a third or so of CT is basically a follow-up to "All-Seing Eye" adventure and "Praxis" short story (Ewan Corcoran and the United Bank of Panama from "Give the Devil His Due" also receive a lot of attention, to make it clear they're the new bad guys).

The first main chapter on conspiracy theories is about the serious theory: the dragon civil war, bug spirits, the Corporate Court, Ares Macrotechnology, Aztlan geopolitics and the Black Lodge. On dragons, there's nothing new if you read Street Legends. Which I would consider a good thing since some people may not be interest in buying a NPC book to learn about the ongoing plots.
I'm a bit uncertain about bug spirits. CT goes on to explain how they're now trying to infiltrate the world. But depending on how you actually played them (or masters shedim) in the past, it may not look so new. As a gamemaster, I knew Ares experimented on bugs since Threats 2, so the only real news is Snopes is starting seeing a bug infiltrator in every fixer he doesn't know, and that the bugs may get a more prominent role in the following books.

Bugs are far from being Ares only problem. To put it simply, Ares is the new Fuchi. Knight, Vogel and Aurelius each established their own turf within the corp (security, space and media) and fight for power. On top of that, the Washington chapter has UCAS President Colloton clearly opposed to Ares. Like Fuchi, you got to wonder if this is not setting the stage for Ares fall.

About Aztlan, CT keeps on teasing on how CAS and Aztlan will go at war, though not much happen.

Back in the days of Threats, the Black Lodge numbered among the most secret conspiracies. Unlike even the Ordo Maximus or the Bugs, it didn't even have a legal facade, and it faced strong disbelief from the Shadowland users. In CT, the Black Lodge has become a casual topic. People openly talk about it on Hyde Park Speakers' Corner, and it seems everybody in London already knew about it in the 2040ies (one British MP is even "widely reputed" to be a member). Everyone admit its existence, and the Black Lodge now seems about as secret as your average freemasons. It doesn't help that, since there is no Game Information section, every idea the authors wanted to suggest has to be voiced in context, making it like the Jackpoint community knows way too much.

The second chapter is about more silly ideas, like, Dunkelzahn is still alive, or Zurich Orbital is run by reincarnated gnomes. It's still interesting as, it puts things into perspective about what is believable and what is known, and introduces some not-so-crazy ideas, like the reason what harvested organs are still needed to replace those of the leonized people, and how alien intelligence are involved in the building of Aztechnology pyramids (which is not completely wrong wen you think about it). The chapter is fun, but also interesting on how you should introduce Shadowrun actual secrets next to false theories, as a reminder that the people of the Sixth World maybe shouldn't take any claim of immortal beings and magical conspiracies at face value.

London and Washington chapter share a common objective : conspiracy theories and locations description somehow take a backseat to history and power players (don't worry though, there are still more than a decent share of locations description).
There is nothing really new in London since the Sixth World Almanac and Spy Games. What we get are more details on the players and the background. The big plots seem to be the feud between Neonet, HKB and S-K for influence over the new government, and the Lambeth area projects. But it's a bit difficult to tell, as the chapter doesn't put a clear emphasis on them, or at least not one I was able to grasp.
Washington has a fun history section, which pushed back the beginning of Shadowrun modern alternate history to the Irangate, which forced Vice-president Georges Bush to resign (interestingly enough, while Bush was "only" DCI and Vice-president and resigned over such scandal, the CIA headquarters is nonetheless the Georges H. W. Bush Center of Intelligence according to SOTA:2063). And so Michael Dukakis went on to become the next president. Also, Aldrich Ames has been caught as early as 1986. It looks like someone's using SR history to settle some scores.
Washington major plots are related to the usual political struggle and the artifacts. There's a few pages on the New Revolution, but it seems the intent is to establish as canon the New Revolution is mostly dead and gone, that they were manipulated, that General Angela Colloton never ever was a member and that Fastjack will vote for her. And this felt completely out of place for a book called Conspiracy Theories.

I can't help thinking the final chapter on Magic Rituals simply don't belong here. It should have been in Artifacts Unbound. It provides quite interesting information on the use of the artifacts and the reason they're wanted. Did someone got late on delivery schedule? Or AU wordcount got past the limit?


What's not in

Maps. CT doesn't feature any map of London or Washington. It's less of a problem than it was for Bogota in War! or would have been for Denver in Spy Games (where control zones were fairly important and do not appear on Google Maps or whatever). But the lack of map made the reading a bit less pleasant, as I didn't wanted to have Google Earth running in the background to check where 18th Street exactly is. At least I have some memories of Washington general layout (having traveled there in the past, and set several adventures also) but it may not be the case for everyone, especially non-US audience.

Game Information. There's no clear information for the gamemaster to read from an objective point of view. So, as said above, a lot of times Jackpoint users casually gives away critical informations as if everyone on Earth knew.

Matrix conspiracies. Either serious or stupid ones, there are no conspiracy theories about AI or technomancers. Well, that's not exactly true. There is one actually, but in the Shadowtown Showdown short story.

The Ordo Maximus. There are two chapters on conspiracy theories, one on London, but the Ordo Maximus is mentioned exactly twice. Here's the entirety of what CT has on them : "[After 2047] The people began to recognize that the true enemy was British nobility and the secret societies pulling the strings. In the streets, people began to speak openly about groups such as Ordo Maximus, the Illuminati, and the Black Lodge." (page 93) and "This theory is intrinsically tied to the belief that there is some vampiric cabal, such as the Ordo Maximus, seeking to control the world, an idea Mr. De Vries has been pitching to those of us in the shadows for almost twenty years." (page 140).

Immortal elves. The expression is used, but never explained. What and who they are, how many of them there is, what type of immortality do they enjoy (Lugh Surehand didn't even had Immunity to Age in Street Legends)... the topic has not been touched upon in a sourcebook since Threats in 1996. Authors (and I guess, a lot of forums regulars) assume everyone know about them, but I'm far from sure. Conspiracy Theories would have been the perfect opportunity to give a recap.
It's also assumed the reader know or will bother to check what CID, CAPs and "Dips" are. Washington chapter is akin to Spy Games in this regard (somewhat expected for the alphabet soup capital...). We're told about the HEAD and "blood lust" several pages before getting to know what they actually are.

There is nothing new on the Nightwraith strike, no mention at all of the four assassinations of 2016 (when US and Russian presidents and UK and Israel prime ministers were assassinated a few weeks apart). As SR timeline goes on, those stories starts getting really old, but I can't help not being a bit disappointed for a book called Conspiracy Theories. Not sure if the authors did not care or did not dare.


My usual nitpicking

There are two references to a NBCNN news channel (pages 38 and 46). I guess it's intended to be a merger of National Broadcasting Corporation and SR NewsNet. In the past (Shadowbeat, Corporate Download, System Failure), SR writers were using ABS, CBC and NBS as replacement for ABC, CBS and NBC (however, Emergence already refered to NBC). NBS was an Ares Macrotechnology subsidiary. NewsNet belonged to the Hisato-Turner Broadcasting group, which was taken over by Horizon. If NBS and MBC is the same company, the merger can be explained if NBS/C was part of Truman Technologies holding that Ares sold to Horizon.

Ares called its latest battle rifle "Excalibur". Few people will remember that there already was an Ares Excalibur in SOTA:2063, except it was a self-propelled howitzer, similar to the Steyr-Daimler Kreuzritter. Has nanotechnology gone too far, or has Ares Arms marketing department run out of idea ?

Page 40 - "In fact, from what I have been told, they have yet to be busted by border patrols from nearly sixteen different countries, including the Sioux Nation, which still has the feared Wildcats guarding its borders."
Special forces -more precisely, what all fluff so far described as the most badass special forces in the Sixth World-used to patrol borders? I guess it explains why so many of them end up leaving and signing with Knight Errant.

Page 46 - "Both Aztlan and Amazonia have filed protests with the United Nations, citing that the stolen footage from the UCAS satellite has caused grave harm to their respective countries’ war efforts."
Either the United Nations Charter was rewritten a lot, or the Aztlan and Amazonian governments need to reread it. The UN charter basically makes any war unlawful. There only are UN-sanctioned armed operations to restore peace. In the best case, Aztlan may argue the ongoing operations are the continuation of the operations against the South American cartels, which were sanctioned by the UN.

"Page 91 - The Royal London Police needed the assistance of NDM druids—the so-called Templars—to end the battle."
It mixes up two things. The NDM is the New Druidic Movement, a political party. The Templars was the nickname of the Lord Protector Office agents. The Lord Protector Marchment belonged to the NDM, so there might have been other NDM members in the LPO (especially awakened following the druidic tradition), but those nonetheless are two different things.

London Sourcebook and Shadows of Europe never suggested the "Templars" name of the Lord Protector office agents was anything else than slang (their office is near Temple Church in London). CT insists a lot on a connection with the actual Knights Templars. It similarly insist on a link between the Vatican and Cross Seraphim (if you ask me, I always found such straight use of biblical code name was too disrespectful for devout catholics ; the Seraphim heads being the Quebec lodge of the Black Lodge, on the other hand, considering the Vigilia Evangelica and Knights Templars connection...).

Page 123 - "The Thirteenth Amendment to the UCAS Constitution recognized the right of corporations to demand the repatriation of their citizens under the Business Recognition Accords."
According to the Neo-anarchist Guide to North America, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 2036. According to Corporate Download, the Corporate Court invited nations to sign Business Recognition Accords in 2042.

Page 129 - "The IRS was one of the keystone agencies involved in the Echo Mirage program for several reasons. First, the U.S. considers revenue collection to be an existential function. Without the Internet, that capability was crippled."
According to rulebooks (1st, 2nd, 3Rd and 4th edition), CIA, NSA and IRS pooled their resources in Echo Mirage before the Crash, before Internet was threatened.

Page 131 - "UCAS Marshals tactical teams carried out enforcement actions against several corporations and a couple of governments."
UCAS Marshals operations against foreign governments? Oh my god, the congressional hearing would have be fun. But I fail to see the reason why the administration would ever use Marshal for such action instead of the armed forces, CIA or NSA.

Page 134 - "In the defense industry, Keruba, Federated-Boeing, and Esprit were the big winners, while Ares was very obviously the biggest loser."
So far, Keruba name has never been used outside of historical reference to Renraku's past. As far as Blood in the Boardroom, Renraku management ditched most of the original Keruba consortium in the late 2040ies (the exception being Izom Armaments and possibly Gaz-Niki). Keruba hasn't been listed as a current subsidiary or brand name of Renraku in Corporate Download or Corporate Guide. But it wouldn't be the first time a corporation resurrect a decades-old brand. On the other hand, a few pages later (pages 147), CT rather has Renraku Asia subsidiary Terracotta Armaments present in FDC.

Page 160 - "The current vice president owes her career to Pritchard, as does Speaker Ellis and many other Republicans."
Notwithstanding the fact -now known by everyone on Jackpoint- that Speaker of the House Joseph Ellis is not only a member of the Black Lodge, but the head of the UCAS Congressmen lodge. Funny how nobody bring that up after the Black Lodge became such a casual topic. That, or the Black Lodge is far less powerful that we were led to believe, and its highest ranking member still need help from some canuck girl help to rise to powerful positions.


Side notes

CT makes no mention of the idea that the Illuminates of the New Dawn could be splitters of the Black Lodge, as it was suggested (but left to the Gamemaster to decide) in Threats Game Information.

18% of Immortals Exposed site users believe Jonathon Reed is the leader of the immortal elves. That's less than Nadja Daviar (21%) but more than Lugh Surehand himself (15%). Funnily enough, I doubt many people even among SR most hardcore fans who Reed was before the release of Street Legends and Artifacts Unbound. It looks like prince Reed is the new favorite NPC of someone.

Harlequin has Excalibur -the sword, not the battle riffle or the self-propelled howitzer- according to Man-of-Many-Names (which I found to be quite out of character in the wording of that particular post, but maybe it's just me).

The Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport (formerly Dulles) and the area around, now called Eisenhower City, are run by Ares Macrotechnology. Irony intended I guess, considering the "military-industrial complex" address.


All4BigGuns

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« Reply #38 on: (11:38:29/11-27-11) »
Personally, when I see a new book come out for a game, I want to see a good amount of what I see referred to here as 'crunchy'. If I don't see at least 40%, I tend to write the book off as 'not worth the price' and move along trying to find a book that's more useful when making a character. Story fluff can be good, yes, but I doubt that I'm the only one who determines 'worthiness to buy' by that.
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« Reply #39 on: (14:50:48/11-29-11) »
My reaction to CT is lukewarm. First of all, a lot of the material isn't about conspiracy theories in the sense of "The CIA hired Bigfoot to sell your uterus to the mothership". Sections like "A Great Dragon Civil War", "The Corporate Court: Stolen Protocols", and "Ares: The Beginning of the End?" (which, mysteriously, does not appear in the PDF bookmarks...coincidence?), are just rumors about the usual pushing and shoving that goes on in the Sixth World, albeit at a very high level.

"Magic Rituals" is material that should have been released as a stand-alone PDF supplement to Dawn of the Artifacts. It's useless and unintelligible without DotA, and, frankly, I skipped DotA because I don't like premade adventures and I don't like high fantasy being jammed into my cyberpunk/low urban fantasy hybrid.

I also don't like metaplot. Shadowrun has been using more and more of it, and I wonder why. I've never met a single gamer who ever said, "Do you know what I love? Metaplot. Do you know what I want a second helping of? Metaplot." On the contrary, I used to hear endless complaints about the metaplot in the classic World of Darkness, and then I heard endless complaints when they threw it out the window and replaced it with the new World of Darkness. If the 6th World gets remade by a global bug outbreak, or Dragon War III, or the sudden appearance of extraterrestrial civilizations, then the shark will have been jumped.

And finally, little of the material in CT is confirmed or disconfirmed for the gamemaster. Is this really happening or not? Yes sure, maybe it is, maybe it isn't...it's a conspiracy theory. But as the GM, it would help me a lot if I knew.


FastJack

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« Reply #40 on: (15:24:03/11-29-11) »
Do you know what I love? Metaplot. From Shadowrun Immortal Elves to the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere to Cormyrian Heraldry of Faerûn to the detailed Lightsaber forms in use by Jedi Masters to the uprising of the Secret Lodge in the Pathfinder Society in Golarion to what the watermelon is for in Buckaroo Banzai.

Ironically, it sounds to me that the detailed setting of Shadowrun is not the setting you want to run your games in. If so, that's fine! There's nothing wrong with buying a game specifically for its rules and use them to tell your own stories. But, speaking for those of us that love this stuff, don't try to say that there aren't gamers that love metaplot. Because there are and we're here.

Edit: Oh, and also the reason they are plot "hooks" and not adventures is because it's totally up to the GM to determine whether or not they are true, or if they even exist as anything more than a rumor in their game.
« Last Edit: (15:25:43/11-29-11) by FastJack »

Patrick Goodman

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« Reply #41 on: (15:25:40/11-29-11) »
I also don't like metaplot. Shadowrun has been using more and more of it, and I wonder why.
Because an overwhelming amount of noise has been made that we, the writers, and CGL, the producers, have been ignoring metaplot. We've been accused of sacrificing the continuing story and metaplot for at least the past couple of years (which claim is patently ridiculous, but it's there).

We also think it's one of the things that sets the game apart from a number of other RPGs, and we like it. It's been a part of the game for 22 years and counting; there's not a compelling reason to not keep doing it.
Quote
And finally, little of the material in CT is confirmed or disconfirmed for the gamemaster. Is this really happening or not? Yes sure, maybe it is, maybe it isn't...it's a conspiracy theory. But as the GM, it would help me a lot if I knew.
It's your game. Is it or isn't it? You tell us. We're not going to send the Game Police to your door and take your books away if you go a different direction than we do.

It's really not our mandate, especially with a book like this one, to tell you which is real and which isn't. Especially since some of it's not decided yet.

There, I've said it, the cat's out of the bag: There's no Ultimate Big Story Guide to the Future. The metaplot isn't planned out with mathematical precision for the next decade and a half. Typically, we've got a very rough map to about a tenth of that amount of time at any given moment. Even then, if someone comes along and says, "Hey, don't you think it would be cool if we did thus-and-so here?", that map can go by the wayside for a while, to be returned to later, once the cool detour's made.

We can't tell you which ones are real and which are not because, for the most part, we don't know. We haven't decided yet. Always in motion, the future is.
« Last Edit: (16:03:58/11-29-11) by Patrick Goodman »
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Crimsondude

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« Reply #42 on: (16:56:03/11-29-11) »
There's been metaplot for 22 years. Why change now?

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« Reply #43 on: (17:35:04/11-29-11) »
There's been metaplot for 22 years. Why change now?
Because people are buying RPGs that require you buy foil booster packs and tap cards in order to activate powers, and has no storyline aside from dungeon-to-dungeon.  :P
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« Reply #44 on: (19:16:16/11-29-11) »
Because you say Role-playing Game to most people, and the first thing they think of is World of Warcraft, Skyrim, or City of Heroes.
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