Shadowfelons: How dangerous IS Seattle?

   According to the basic Shadowrun book, Seattle in the 2050’s has a population of approximately 3,000,000 and a felonious crime rate of 18 per 1000 people per year, or about 54,000 per year. A lot of minor stuff doesn’t get reported of course – so lets call it five or six times that rate, or 300,000 per year. One felony per year per every ten people.

   Sounds like a lot doesn’t it?

   But what is a felony?

   Lets see here… Felonies:

  • Conspiracy (To commit a felony),
  • Providing Means, Aid In, or Opportunity to Commit a Felony
  • Simple Assault (Verbal harassment or physical obstruction), on Policemen, Firemen, or other authorities.
  • Assault to Cause Grievous Injury (Anybody)
  • Killing Someone (whether negligent or intentional)
  • Unlawful Imprisonment
  • Kidnaping
  • Criminal Coercion (forcing the commission of a crime or the violation of duty)
  • Armed Criminal Trespass
  • Burglary
  • Criminal Mischief (vandalism with damages exceeding 1500 NY)
  • Reckless Tampering with Public Services (public utilities, phones)
  • Arson
  • Grand Larceny (theft, valued at 250 NY or more)
  • Extortion
  • Robbery
  • Possession of Stolen Property with a value of 250 NY or more
  • Forgery (bad checks and up)
  • Possession of Criminal Equipment (definition more or less up to the police)
  • Bribing a Public Official
  • Hindering the prosecution or pursuit of a known felon
  • Possession or Sale of Controlled Substances (drugs, presumably in Shadowrun this also includes Controlled Devices, such as BTL chips and combat cyberware)
  • Bookmaking or running gambling devices
  • Rioting
  • Criminal Anarchy (advocating violence against the public order)
  • Bugging and Wiretapping
  • Possession of Major Weaponry (as a game master I presume that – in a world with awakened critters and people with supernatural powers running about carrying a pistol or blade for self-defense is no longer even unusual, much less criminal. Unfortunately, player-characters tend to want to carry assault rifles, hand grenades, and similar devices).

   So every time some street hustler moves a BTL chip, or a hit of a drug, that’s a felony. Lets see… Call it ten sales a day – and some time off of course – makes about 3000 felonies per year per hustler. If there are 50 hustlers out there that gives us 150,000 felonies a year.

   Every time a street gang jacks a vending machine, that’s 90 felonies (about 30 members – and one hit each for Conspiracy, Burglary, and Criminal Mischief). Running a protection racket will be many hundreds of felonies per year.

   OK: That’s not going to work properly. In a world as anarchic as Shadowrun the few figures we’ve got on “felonies” aren’t going to tell us anything useful unless we can turn up some sort of estimate on how many go unreported and what the rates of various sorts are.

   Lets go for something a little more basic here. Lets just look at homicides.

   Seattle has an population of about 3,000,000 official residents. Our figures are going to be pretty rough anyway, so we’ll take that as good enough and it’s the figure from the basic book.

   Lets say the life expectancy is about 60 years. That’s actually pretty short. It’s shorter then it was in the USA in 1940, 15 years shorter then it was in the USA in the 1980’s, and WAY shorter then 2050’s medical science can supply. This can be justified by the plight of the SINless, pollution, and the shorter lifespans of Orks – but it isn’t easy. Somewhere in the 70’s would be easier to justify (the 2008 global average – despite aids, wars, famines, and other troubles around the world – is 69), but makes the figures a bit more complicated. We’ll stick with 60 for now.

   That gives us an annual death rate of 50,000. This may vary locally according to “bulges” – such as the classic post-WWII “Baby Boom” – in the local demographics but, at least in general, the annual death rate pretty much has to equal (Population/Life Expectancy)

   A hell of a lot of those are going to be “Unremarkable Deaths”. That’s deaths from things like old age, accidents (vehicular, skiing, ladders, stairs and bathrooms, etc), illnesses (pneumonia, VITAS, cancer, and so on), suicide, “lifestyle problems” (heart attacks and “overstress”, diabetes, legal executions, mountain climbers, etc) – and infant mortality. For a quick look at some reasonably current (2002 US) statistics on causes of death we have:

  1. Heart Trouble: 28.5% (also usually the default for a quiet death from old age).
  2. Cancer: 22.8%
  3. Stroke: 6.7%
  4. Chronic lung trouble: 5.1%
  5. Accidental Trauma: 4.4%
  6. Diabetes: 3.0%
  7. Lung infection: 2.7%
  8. Alzheimers Disease: 2.4%
  9. Kidney Trouble: 1.7%
  10. Infection: 1.4%
  11. Suicide: 1.3%
  12. Liver trouble: 1.1%
  13. High blood pressure: 0.8%
  14. Homicide: 0.7%
  15. Other 17.4% (less than .5% each: fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, drowning, explosion, non-trauma accidents (poisoning, drowning, suffocation, overindulging in dangerous fetishes), drug overdose, surgical failure, work-associated deaths (most common in mining, construction, and fishing), animal attacks, hernia, ulcer, an immense selection of diseases, complications of pregnancy, congenital defects, falls, executions, battle casualties and so on. This also includes a very tiny percentage of people who have vanished and are presumed dead, many of them children)

   In other words, 99% are unremarkable.

   That’s boring though, and the world of Shadowrun does feature more violence, and more exotic causes of death (such as magic, whether intentional or inadvertent). We’ll Triple that rate, so only 97% of deaths are “unremarkable”.

   So that gives us roughly 2% as Homicides (including “self-defense”, such as killings by police and corporate guards) or about 1000 per year. That is quite a lot. Of course, most real-world homicides are family affairs (husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, offspring, parents, and other relatives and acquaintances). People being people, that sort of thing is unlikely to change much, which leaves us with around 800 other homicides per year – split up among gang violence, police shootings, insults, fights gone too far, robberies gone wrong, underworld warfare, serial killers, assassinations, and all other causes.

   An awful lot of them are going to be the results of petty street squabbles – gang warfare, insults, muggings gone bad, and so on. A fair chunk will just be business – disposing of witnesses, hits on opposing syndicates, people shot during robberies, and so on. A very small percentage are going to be professional assassinations, and a lot of those will be internal matters in various criminal organizations.

   Now, that still leaves us 1% – about 500 a year – for “Exotic Deaths”. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, cybernetic overloads, magicians killing themselves by overdoing things, deckers getting their brains fried, being transformed into insect spirit hosts, attacks by vampires and other awakened critters (pretty rare unless there are a LOT of awakened creatures around or people are being sloppy about trying to use them as guard animals).

   Those are some more useful figures. Evidently “wetwork” doesn’t come up too often. More importantly, if a group of shadowrunners goes around killing people by the score, they’re going to be rocketing to the top of the “most wanted” lists. Kill a few thousand people and you’re going to draw MAJOR attention. Best to stick with the narcoject pistols most of the time.

   Of course, if the player-characters are involved in a war against the insect spirits or some such, both their casualties and those among their opponents don’t really fall into this category: you’ve gone from “homicide” to “warfare” there. The calculations are still something to keep in mind when you’re creating organizations and character backgrounds though: there are always specific exceptions, but this sort of situation is the general rule.

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