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So for my first run with Shadowrun 5th edition I want to start with what seems like a simple courier mission to a Yakuza gang. Mr. Johnson has a package to be transported to the rendezvous point with a Yakuza lieutenant. I want the package to look ordinary and almost impossible to identify because it's actually a bomb. I don't want the hacker or mage or anyone in the party to be aware of it because the Johnson plans to make it explode at the rendezvous. A slight malfunction in the device will delay the explosion to when the group is leaving (hurting the unlucky but nothing serious).

So my question is how can I prevent the players to clearly identify the package as a bomb before the delivery? I don't want to simply explain that for some reason the thing is impossible to identify, I want mechanical ways to explain how to hide this from my players.

Is it even possible to hide completely something?

PS: Even though I'm going to play with the 5th edition I don't expect edition-specific answers. An explanation from any Shadowrun official book can work (please identify the book and the page if possible).

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Plot-fu! In all seriousness does the package itself need to be the bomb or could the bomb just be at the delivery location. This seems extremely railroady by specifically looking to ignore/minimize mechanics to make your story work like a movie instead of an RPG. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 9 '13 at 13:45
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I don't think hiding something from your players is railroading them. It's like saying you're railroading your players by playing in Shadowrun. –  MrJinPengyou Jul 9 '13 at 13:57
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There's a difference between giving players options in a story-centric game and making them unwitting participants in a cut-scene. Having the bomb be the delivery location basically allows for everything you want without breaking the game by Fiat to get it to happen. Alternative why is having your players find out about the bomb ahead of time bad? Could make for some interesting story development. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 9 '13 at 14:04
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Having the bomb simply there at the location would make them unwitting participant in a cut-scene. Having them carry a mysterious object as part of their job and discover it was a bomb sounds more interesting to me. I love the NPC with cortex bomb answer. I don't have to hide it; the players will never suspect that. –  MrJinPengyou Jul 9 '13 at 14:44
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the package actually just broadcasts a low-level RFID field/signal. the bomb is planted at the location itself, and set to go off when it detects the package's RFID signal. however, Goon#1 has been eating too many restaurants, and is large enough to block the signal, until he moves off to the side to take a phone call. Thus, boom! –  acolyte Jul 9 '13 at 17:49

7 Answers 7

Very much in the Shadowrun ethos would be to make the bomb the package itself, not the contents. A 'padded box' (actually made out of plastic explosive) could have a detonator built in, and if it is left open 'to show there is no trickery' or (if Mr Johnson is feeling sneaky) sealed in a way one of the characters will have no difficulty bypassing, the party can take out the (costume jewellery?) and examine it as much as they like.

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Yes. Allow the players to identify the package as something else, which eases suspicions instead of raising them. –  Mooing Duck Jul 9 '13 at 19:58

You could flat out tell the players they are transporting a block of high yield plastic explosives to a buyer. Now they know its a bomb... you dont have to worry about them investigating it.

When telling them the mission, just leave out the part where the bomb is set to go off when the person they plan to meet shows up. It could be triggered off of the presense of the target's mobile device, or some RFID tag in the target's cybernetic implants. Or possibly coated with a chemical catalyst designed to react to the dna of the target once they touch it. Since your intent is to delay the explosion, you really dont have to say what the mechanism for detonation is since the PCs wont be there.

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+1 - Nice and simple –  wraith808 Jul 9 '13 at 21:56
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+1 - Perfectly devious. I don't think most Shadowrunners would even believe you if you told them it was a bomb. –  Discord Jul 10 '13 at 2:27

The package is a Faraday cage with some magic to make it invisible. The former point is there to stop scans. The latter to stop magical examinations. When opened, the little transmitted inside it goes beep and tells Mrs Drone to release Mr Missile to come to the rescue. If the PCs open it before hand, then the missile goes to where they are. This gives the PCs some change to flee before the missile arrives. Thus you have no need to have a super stealth bomb that is shoddy and does not work. In addition, it should scare the PCs that the opposition has access to military drones.

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but wouldn't the blankness from either magical or science be a giveaway that something is up? –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 9 '13 at 14:02
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Of course it would! It would give away that this is a secret thing protected from prying eyes which is what any packages given for transport should look like. If the transporter does not know what they are transporting, then no one will torture them, their family, and their friends to gain information. That's just basic security that the PCs should demand from an employer. sheeeesh ^_~ –  Sardathrion Jul 9 '13 at 14:06
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@JoshuaAslanSmith: "something is up?" Well of course. If nothing was "up," Mr. Johnson would have the packkage shipped gls –  medivh Jul 10 '13 at 9:43

There are a couple different kinds of astral barriers in Shadowrun that would prevent snooping by a mage.

In your case specifically, I'd use Biofiber - a dual-natured plant that is grown in a sheet. It's alive, so you can't astrally project/perceive through it, essentially making your bomb a black-box astrally. (see page 264, SR 4a)

EDIT: It should be noted that this is an expensive solution - and it might indicate that this is fairly important package. You might be able to play that up for good effect - depending on how you wanted to handle it.

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Instead of a package, you could have the PCs escort a NPC instead. Then, it turns out the NPC has a cortex bomb which is set off and blows the smithereens out of the NPC AND any PCs that are too close. That's a pretty classic Shadowrun trope to start the runner's careers off with a bang!

EDIT: I don't have any newer editions, but here are some older rules on it: -Per First Edition SR, the cortex bomb explodes in a one-meter radius for 5D1 damage. (Strong damage, but relatively easy to stage down.)

-Per Third Edition, Cranial bombs have varying levels of power and damage. They can also be expanded to be included in other cyberware, like cyberarms, etc.

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Should this be interpreted as "make it an escort mission with an exploding subject instead of a courierission"? If yes, I really like it, but I don't find the answer clear. –  kravaros Jul 9 '13 at 22:27
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There are people alive today that have only one brain hemisphere but seem perfectly normal. The trick is to lose half your brain early in life. So depending on how long a planner your evil mastermind villain is, he could get hold of some babies nobody will miss, surgically remove half their brains and then have them raised normally. When they've grown into adults, you can again cut their skulls open to insert the mother of all cortex bombs that can take down half a city block. If they are too promising to blow them up, you can still jack them up to more headware than you can possibly conceive. –  Christian Jul 9 '13 at 22:41
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@Christian: That is so perfect an Evil Shadowrun Scheme that before sitting down to game with you I would insist on examining your head for a datajack. –  TimLymington Jul 11 '13 at 16:35
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@TimLymington Yeah, I surprised myself with how evil a plan I could think of there. I imagine how that villain visits his poor orphan children every now and then and how they must love him because he took such good care of them ... when really they are just elaborate cattle to him. Beautiful. I have to make this into an adventure some day, solving the mystery of the missing children in the area or so. The lesson will be to never invite some beautiful young stranger along to help you out with the mission because her pretty face might blow up at any time. –  Christian Jul 11 '13 at 22:30
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You could even subvert the child escort mission trope where the cute helpless little kid is carrying the bomb. Muhahaha! The hardest part either way will be to give the PCs some way to survive this thing. –  Christian Jul 11 '13 at 22:31

Bombs come in many different shapes and sizes.
Most bombs with timers are actually two chemicals that react extremely when mixed, and the mix is delayed by some means (often just a thin sheet of paper).
A good example of how this can be done to a player without them knowing was done in a recent D&D game.
A player in our group met with an alchemist, requesting information to learn his trade (i.e. multi-class).

Unfortunately the player mentioned one of the most well known members of the party by name, and the alchemist decided to take matters into his own hands. The alchemist explained that the player didn't have enough money for the training, but could provide him with a potion of protection. It was two drinks, the first chemical to be taken immediately, and the second when he got back to the party. The second drink mixed the chemicals and the exploding body of the player was the bomb itself.
Voila, a time bomb.

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Going off of deltree, the chemicals themselves don't even necessarily need to be volitile, or dangerous seperated. Remember that Thermite (which burns through most anything) is merely Aluminium shavings and rusted iron in certain percentages started with magnesium (like a road flare). Even if someone else were to look at this, it wouldn't really garner suspicion if no one knew this particular tidbit of info. Or, gasoline, styrofoam, and concentraged orange juice in a opaque one gallon jug for quick, homemade napalm. Chlorine and bleach mixed makes chloride gas, a moderate choking agent. –  Jersey Jul 10 '13 at 17:44
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Also, the Arab insurgents got rather creative with their stuff. Best one I saw was a soda-can grenade. One can of pop, a can opener for the lid, some gun powder, nails/screws, and some type of blasting cap and fuze, and you don't even have to pop the top! This little creation was a real pain in our butts overseas, and would be completely innocuous until you picked it up and realized it was too heavy and didn't have any fluids in it. Freon bombs, FAEs, A/C compresser charges... lots of nasties out there. –  Jersey Jul 10 '13 at 18:11

Let the package be an ordinary package. Money, gold, whatever. Leave some protection on it, of course, as a diversion (of easy to moderate difficulty.)

Have the Johnson have the PCs' vehicle(s) rigged in secret (if they have one, or lend / get them one or more, if they don't.) Let the vehicle be the carrier.

This way the trap (It's a trap!) will work even when the gangsters tell the PCs at gunpoint and at a safe distance to open the package before they'd accept it.

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