Shadowrun: The End Times

   Here we have a player submission – an alternate shadowrun history. Actually, I’m not quite sure where this is supposed to fit in; it matches neither the canon shadowrun history nor the modified version that’s in use in the current game. I’ve added some annotations afterwards to make sure the current players know which is which. Like all game-related submissions it’s worth some bonus karma, although – since it’s going to be somewhat difficult to use – only one point in this case.

The End: A Shadowrun Story

   This is a little gift to some of our Shadowrun players. Some of you won’t enjoy it, and that’s OK. It’s not for everyone. It is a primer on how and why society collapsed to the point where random violence is often shrugged off even in good neighborhoods and whole nations disintegrated.

   We most honestly say the End of Everything really started at the height of human civilization, in the post-Cold War era. (1)

   A lot of things happened. Fusion power happened. Advancing computer technology happened. These made transportation inexpensive and easy, even for small quantities.

   Terrorism happened. During this era, terrorist movements gained strength and began to radicalize at an increasing rate. In the United States, Amerindian terrorists even attempt to fire a nuclear weapon at Russia, prompting new national security laws and the internment of Indians in camps. But this pattern was repeated in many other areas around the globe. (2)

   The transnational, or One World, movement happened. In the early 2010’s, this semi-formal organization formed in many of the more advanced and stable states. It was both a cause and a result of increasing lack of identification. Simply put, many relatively well-off “global citizens” simply had no real identity, and they wanted to create a world government (not unsurprisingly, ruled by people like them). This is soon infiltrated by radicals, and split into violent and peaceful groups. Both supported global terror directly or indirectly to bring down national governments. The movement has broken down completely by the 2050’s, and is largely thought of as a bad joke. (3)

   VITAS happened. This horrific virus spread easily and killed quickly, and kill it did, by the hundreds and thousands and millions, everywhere. Starting in the poorest nations, it killed more and faster than any other illness. The developed world was spared the worst, as VITAS was not usually fatal with decent medical care (it was much like pneumonia). But it did weaken the economies and cause shortages, and gave momentum to the One World movements. (4)

   The One World movement weakened national identities in many nations. Global terror made people doubt their own societies. VITAS, however, forced governments to make the hard choices which killed them. Resources for surviving could be more easily supplied in urban areas, and the disease seemed worse there. But rural areas suffered gravely, and as governments simply ignored them, many started ignoring governments. Nations decayed as large portions of most societies stopped paying taxes to apathetic central governments. Those governments often deliberately ignored regions which often promised nothing more than terrorist and headaches. (5)

   At the same time, those outlying regions were starting to come into magic. Developed nations and wealthy regions had no edge or advantage there (not yet, anyway), and magic could be used by terrorist and guerillas to brutal effect. No amount of guards could peer through even the weakest Invisibility spell, for instance. (6)

   At the same time, magic’s return meant that paranormal animals emerged and Goblinization arrived. At first, this wasn’t very impressive. A few odd practitioners of tiny tricks attracted little notice, and even the discovery of large “undiscovered” animals was more a simple news item than a world-shattering event. But magic grew stronger. Monsters – like dragons and other dangerous beasts – returned to the world.

   And although the human race started out adding elves and dwarves, orks and trolls soon showed. Unlike elves and dwarves, their arrival was brutal, shocking, and sudden. Large numbers of them died in the process. People demanded to be protected from the unknown disease. Orks and trolls, shunned by society, banded together or were herded into camps. Violence against the newly goblinized was common, and all of this contributed to more and more social anxiety and decay. Society collapsed a little further and shuddered on.

   The Crash happened. The Crash of 2029 came from the introduction of a truly monstrous creation. The Virus, as it was called, was the most sophisticated program ever devised. Armed with incredibly sophisticated code attacks and lethal biofeedback, it killed many of the best and brightest programmers using the latest datajack technology. It struck with record speed and infested every major computer cluster on the planet. Although the virus was soon purged through the creation of early decker technology and the development of cybercombat, it annihilated many of the world’s greatest banking and computer technology companies. (7)

   The rise of megacorporations sped up the process by filling the void. Megas were largely formed by companies banding together to survive the chaos by having the largest, most varied and versatile business entity. Any one segment might be broken, but the company could always survive, retrench, and reinvest. Megas were everywhere, and could operate in areas where governments fell apart. They invested in security services and developed an attitude of brutality towards guerrillas and terrorists, an attitude national governments frequently lacked. (8)

   Megacorporations also provided an outlet for the more passive One World bunch, who simply became corporate citizens. They had what they wished – citizens of the world, without national identities, with old national governments weakened to the point of collapse in many cases. Of course, as with most things, what you asked for somehow never turns out to be what you wanted. (9)

Behind the Scenes

   Many of the events of the 2010’s through 2030’s, those which formed the basis of the Shadowrun universe, were orchestrated through a force which no one even knows about. A handful of elves, made immortal through a magical artifact from the last magical age, survived the magical down-cycle. Several of them had plans for the world. They are armed with powerful magic, eons of observations about human society – and utterly primitive moral codes in their filthy black hearts. (10)

   Simply put, most of the Immortal Elves are what you’d expect from an early bronze age barbarian chief given access to high technology and magic. They deliberately set about weakening existing societies and expanding social rifts in order to remake the world into the form they wanted: themselves on top. In the late 20th century, they found they were able to use more magic than simple tricks, and with less work than under most of the down-cycle. (11)

   They used this to amplify social leaders whom they found useful. Even a relatively middling leader could become amazingly gifted with the advantage of large Charisma, Willpower, and Intelligence bonuses and generous donations. The One World movement was definitely one such tool (which fell apart after they removed their gifts from movement leaders). The Immortal Elves also probably funded and supported some of the most dangerous terrorists. (12)

   They were probably not behind the two biggest shocks to the world, however: VITAS and the Crash of 2029 are not their style. VITAS was probably natural and the Virus was much more technologically complex than the Immortal Elves could handle. (13)

   But the Elves did do many other, more subtle things. Many of them made a deliberate effort to destroy religion, another social cohesive which usually frowns on magic. They promoted a sort of cold materialism, but liked anything in preference for a real belief or faith, even in any kind of decency or goodness. Given the behind-the-scenes actions of amoral power-mongers willing to make bargains with the vilest of monsters, this may have been a mistake. (14)

Annotations:

   Since – as was noted at the beginning – this doesn’t really match the game history for the current game, here are some notes on what is, and what is not, applicable.  

   1) Well, this was the peak to date of the total human population (in Shadowrun it hasn’t yet recovered from the plagues, wars, and transformation of many of its members into other subspecies), as well as the period with the greatest proportion of the population living under at least nominally democratic governments. Respect for “human rights” might also have been at a peak, it’s arguably waned in Shadowrun. Still, technology has continued to advance, the largest political entities in history were well before this period, and humans have continued to achieve new things.

   2) Personally, I’m torn between saying that terrorism hit it’s peak with the Mongols (largest area terrorized), with WWII (largest number killed), or with the Khmer Rouge (largest percentage of the local population killed in recent history). Of course, the term has been diluted to a pejorative label for pretty much any group the user dislikes, as is amply demonstrated by the difficulty in agreeing on a definition (the US government has made several attempts, without real success) and by the practice of labeling entire countries as “terrorist regimes”. For example, China, Great Britian, Iran, Iraq, Isreal, Egypt [and the rest of the middle east], Brazil, and the United States are all labeled “terrorist regimes” in various places. Chinese sources have even labeled the Dalai Lama a terrorist, which – I suspect – is stretching even the vaguely-defined current limits of the term a bit.

   3) The “One World” movement doesn’t turn up in either the canon or modified histories. I suspect that the need to identify with a group is a symptom of a lack of a strong personal identity – but much of the human race seems to feel the need, ergo this is a normal condition. More notably, “Global Terror” might make a good name for a supervillian group, but truly extremist organizations – pretty much by their nature – tend to be small and incompatible with each other. After all, their recruits are drawn from those few who take a particular extreme position, believe in it fervently, and are thus intolerant of even minor variants.

   4) Plagues and shortages might drive people to espouse a (rather abstract) political position, but wouldn’t they also divert a lot of people to local goals? Many communities become insular and self-isolating under stress. This still helped the breakup though, if only because so many communities started to believe that they were on their own anyway.

   5) On a practical note, as of the 2000 census, approximately 70% of the United States population lived within the boundaries of urbanized areas – about 2% of the land area of the country – and the number is increasing. If you throw in the suburban areas, you get closer to 90% of the population. By the time VITAS appeared, it was closer to 95%. For the same investment of effort that it took to save one rural victim, you could save several urban victims. As importantly, Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome was most dangerous in the cities: that’s where casual exposure to pollution-toxins was highest. The focus on urban areas might have appeared callous and dismissive to the relatively few victims in rural areas – who had a better chance due to the lower stress on the local health care providers anyway – but it was quite logical.

   6) This bit just doesn’t work well. Since the distribution of mages followed the distribution of population, the more heavily populated – and thus usually more developed and wealthy – regions got most of the new magicians, even including the shamanic types. There are plenty of urban totems.

   7) It’s worth noting that “The Virus” could only directly kill people using Cyberterminals – which had just been invented. It caused a grand total of 25 direct deaths. It did make quite a mess of the worlds data and communications systems though, and the resulting economic dislocations, the near-collapse of distribution and transport systems, and similar troubles, killed a great many people indirectly.

   8) This is less stressed – in part due to having less time to develop in – in the current game timeline than in the canon timeline.

   9) As noted earlier, the “One World” movement isn’t really a part of the current game history.

   10) Well, the involvement of an artifact is debatable even in canon as far as I can find out (the canon simply seems to make them dragon crossbreeds), their magic was very very limited during the low-magic period, and human society has been changing far faster than they can adapt. The canon does have at least a few of them engaged in hunting down sleeping dragons during the low-magic period though.

   11) In canon – and in current game history – they arranged to seize control of the Tir’s (Ireland and an area near Seattle), and instituted some pretty racist elf-superiority social notions. The immortal elves did originate in a fairly high – if magically instead of technologically based – civilization though. It’s just that only the most ruthless ones survived the magical crash and several millenia without much of any personal power beyond what they could get by manipulation.

   12) Magic was actually quite limited at the time. There really isn’t much of anything in the canon or the current game history about the Immortal Elves supporting terrorists. They might have of course, but such people make very unreliable tools. I’d expect them to have founded and nurtured their own orders of fanatic followers however – which is free information for the current game.

   13) This is very true. Despite the canon attempts to make one of them out to be a super-inventor-decker, the notion of ancient immortals being entirely comfortable with modern technology – much less super-inventors – seems unlikely at best.

   14) There was a bit in the “Magic and Death” (from an old sourcebook) which implied that at least two of the Immortal Elves had been attempting to weaken human religious beliefs (this may or may not be accurate in the current game history). Even in canon, they apparently had very little success (religions are still going strong) and their motives were unclear. As a side note, only some religions frown on magic, quite a few others embrace it.

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6 Responses

  1. This is more a “Everyday Joe’s-eye-view” It’s not a distinct history, but an oral history. It’s perhaps exaggerated and gets details wrong, but likewise contains a lot of truths. The “Behind the Scenes” are what that person might think if he were in the secret background. It’s there to give the players a hint of what people might think about things.

    2. Well, organized but small-scale terrorist movements. You could argue for other forms of inflicting fear, but the speaker wouldn’t care.

    3. One World is my invention. It’s an extrapolation. Likewise, the speaker may be thinking that various “One Worlders” had more of a group identity than they did. Global terror is more a statement on the use of global resources and information sources to strike across national boundaries than anything else. It’s a halfway-useful term.

    4. Yup.

    5. I didn’t say it wasn’t logical. But it also fundamentally destroyed the underpinning of society society: the basi belief that “we’re all in this together”. That also wound up largely cutting cities in some nations off from one another, reverting to the city-state model.

    6. Official canon strongly suggests that more rural and traditional groups got magic first; this can probably be explained by the fact that they were trying to use it in some fashion. It need have nothing to do with population distribution.

    10. It is claimed that the weird magical Rose was vaguely responsible for the immortality. I have no doubt there are counter-sources, and you did more directly make a statement about your campaign after I wrote this.

    12. Limited magic is prety potent is used right. My statement of their action is an extrapolation of how they arranged to do what they did.

    13. Well, that and the super-inventor decker was the creation of one really bad book (It’s almost exactly like a Dan Brown novel, but with elves and cyberware).

    14. It is more directly stated in the Aztlan sourcebook. Ehran is pretty proud of his work in that area. Dunklezahn notes that this may have serious consequences, and not the ones Ehran was anticipating. Some other I-Elves believe that an “elementary sense of purpose” absent of any concrete reasoning or logical foundation other than “I say it is” is not religous. Well, they do predate the development of formal logic and philosophy.

  2. Ah well, hard to tell whether this was from an omniscient viewpoint or in-character for someone.

    2) The trouble is, it’s really hard – and probably impossible – to find a definition of “terrorist” that everyone can agree on – and using the term without a definition means that everyone who reads something will interpret it differently. After all, if it’s just scale, wouldn’t any well-organized tribal raiding party fit?

    3) I suspected that it was an interpolation (although there are Shadowrun novels I have not read, and therefore could not be absolutely sure) – which is why it’s noted as neither being a part of the Shadowrun canon or of the current campaign background. Now, “National Boundaries” go right back to the earliest settled tribes; people have made a habit of attacking other people across their borders for a very long time – and as technology has improved their reach, they have attacked people who are further and further away. I suppose “global terror” might be a way to say “the historical trend of people attacking other people at greater and greater distances from their homes culminated when widespread transportation and telecommunication systems made it possible for individuals to quickly and easily attack people located anywhere else in the world, a situation which was further aggravated by the fact that those same systems made it easy to become offended by people in distant locations, whether or not those people meant to offend and whether or not there was any objective reason for taking offense”. The problem is that “Both supported global terror directly or indirectly…” implies that “global terror” has a specific identity, while “Terrorism happened” implies that this is a new problem, when its really a very very old one.
    Hopefully the tendency to irrationally attack other people can be dealt with via education and social change. If it proves to be a genetic trait, and technology continues to advance, the long-term survival of the human race will (necessarily at the point when a single individual could destroy the rest, practically long before that point) eventually become dependent on the elimination of that genetic factor or factors.

    5) I’m not at all sure that there has ever been such a widespread belief that “we’re in this together”. It seems like society past the tribal level has always been built up from competing subgroups. In any case, the vast majority of the population – and thus society – was urban, in the areas which controlled power production, industry, and military force. Even if half the people in the rural areas started assuming that it was “every man for himself”, that would still only have been affecting 2.5% of the total population – a severe problem, but not necessarily crippling. The national breakups were spread over the ensuing decades.

    6) Not precisely: the canon suggests that shamanic types got to the practical spellcasting level first, that shamanic conjuration was easier to figure out than the hermetic variant, and that the Great Ghost Dance was probably instigated by agents of the Horrors in order to gain earlier access to Earth (although the canon contradicts itself on the topic in material that predated the Horror storylines). Some of the authors apparently believed that shamanism was more prevalent among “primitive” societies (this is not true). Of course, even going strictly by canon, the physical adepts would have beaten out everyone, since their power is entirely instinctive. The later grimoires expanded the shamanic approach to include virtually all religiously-oriented magic (including new-age types) and added voodoo practitioners – all of which would have acquired their powers at the same rate as any other shaman. They also added semi-hermetric psychics and madmen, who gained their power instinctively. None of that was ever incorporated into the original timeline or its underlying assumptions, since the timeline hasn’t really changed since the first edition came out. Of course, in the current setting, Witchcraft is also purely instinctive. Ergo, 95% of the magical talent (and most of the Ace-style superheroes) appeared in urban areas – but most of those magicians were fringe types already, rather than supporters of the status quo. Thus they were of little help in maintaining stability.

    10) That would be the “Everliving Flower”, (Denizens of Earthdawn I, page 27, and Barsaive at War, page 71 may be the most informative mentions). It changed color in the presence of dragonkin (revealing the draconic bloodlines of various elves, including the known immortals) and it was rumored that anyone who could open its crystal box and pierce their skin with it’s thorns would become immortal (although no one had ever been able to open the box to test this). Mists of Betrayal (page 97) notes that it was enchanted to keep it alive forever “a few centuries before the scourge” (other sources state that it was early in the fourth age) as a symbol of the eternal nature of elven culture. Since the flower was originally from the Wyrm Wood before its transformation into the Blood Wood – and thus might preserve a portion of the Wyrm Woods true pattern – it was believed that it might be useful in reversing the ritual that transformed the Wyrm Wood. (There were hopes that it might be a catalyst that might cause such a reversion by its mere presence, but this appears to be have been wishful thinking).
    Since at least some of the Immortal Elves date back to the second age, more than five thousand years before the Everliving Flower was apparently created, it probably doesn’t have much to do with how they came to be. (The Earthdawn sourcebooks are contradictory on the topic of the Wyrm Wood itself: it’s credited to the Second Age, but it’s also described as having been an elven homeland continuously since its creation – which wouldn’t work during the third age magical downcycle). Oh well, in-game, Immortality (as in “effective immunity to aging”) has never been that hard to get.

    12) True in some ways. Unfortunately, the canon material on magic level disturbances keeps contradicting itself; according to the current rules any rise in the magic level creates wild magical effects – yet the magic level was vastly higher during the Earthdawn era and such effects were not observed.
    Since the current rules limit all actual spell effects by the spell force, and spells cast using personal energy during the magical downcycle have very limited forces (such casting is possible under the current rules for this campaign, the canon rules never really address the use of magic during the downcycle at all; one of the Threats books implies that many initiates could compensate for it and operate freely, but failed to explain why the Immortal Elves apparently could not do the same or why Dragons definitely could not do it) their effects are pretty minor. Admittedly, +2 Charisma is nice, but you still need some pretty extensive leveraging to use it as a power base. Best to influence the leaders who arise naturally.

    13) Well, the Immortal Elven Superdecker does get referenced in several of the background conversations. It never made much sense even there though.

    14) The Aztlan sourcebook does have a notable comment on the topic. “The Big D” – presumed to be Dunkelzahn for a variety of reasons – states that “all of us here, and others, have striven to weaken the hold of faith on the human heart for generations, so that when magic returned they might be more open to it and embrace it more quickly. I believe we have made a terrible mistake.”

    Of course, if this is Dunkelzahn, this is difficult to make sense of: Dunkelzahn was not awake for generations before magic returned – and if the dragons were capable of wide-spread magical manipulations in their sleep, they should not have been vulnerable to being hunted then. They might have gained such abilities as magic approached the threshold point, but that’s a stretch. More importantly, the abilities of dragons are mostly specified in the rules (and extensively developed in the Dragons of Earthdawn book) and do not include such an ability. Of the other participants in the conference, “The Laughing Man” and “Umsondo” do not seem to agree with the statement, while the “Lady of the Court” states that she does not understand.

    Regardless, even if such an effort was made, it was apparently in vain. What has happened – in both reality and in Shadowrun – is that apostasy, and creating schisms, are no longer legally punishable offenses in the “enlightened world”. Various forms of Faith are doing just as well as ever – including Faith in Science (interestingly, the evolutionary multiverse theories strongly suggest that the ultimate purpose of sentient life is to extend the lifespan of their universe indefinitely and enable its reproduction; the notion that “cold equations” are “devoid of meaning” is false).

    “The Big D” could be being sarcastic, attempting some manipulation, be defining “faith” only in terms of large-scale organized religions, or simply be inattentive to that aspect of the world around him – but the statement does not fit in with the material from the sourcebooks. Even the Tir’s have their own religious beliefs, albeit artificial and manipulative ones designed to establish elven dominance.

    Secondarily, of course, as established in the Grimoires, the strongly religious were natural magic-users; they were open to totems/idols/whatever they wanted to call them, they were used to focusing their minds in pursuit of desired results (often known as “prayer”), they were firmly convinced that their beliefs were important, and they were open to the occurrence of “Miracles” – events not currently scientifically explicable. Even without such religious trappings, however, most religions are not particularly hostile to magic anyway. In general only the monotheistic faiths that see magic as a challenge to the supremacy of the deity are hostile to it.

  3. 2) Do you think the author cares? He’s not trying to define terrorist in some abstract fashion. To him, it means people who blow things up and issue dire threats that are broadcasted by some news agency.

    3) I’m not arguing with you. Every generation seems to think it’s the first to face “big, scary terrorists”. The fact that you seem inclined to argue tells me I wrote it up properly.

    5) You may be overestimating urbanization here. I was assuming that advancing technology (to the rough date in Shadowrun) would allow for more independant small townships and smaller regional cities to flourish. They are urban somewhat, but more isolated and a bit clannish. Rural, here, is more a term for regional character than a strict delineation. And in canon some very large suburban zones were almost abandoned to disease, crime, and violence. My estimates (or guesstimates) suggest that at least a third of the total population could become seriously disaffected. It was in any case an attempt to explain why and how so many nations broke up and broke down.

    6) Well, here I ran into a problem between editions of the books. Later editions started getting much more “generic” magic, and shamanism became more “do whatever you want” in particular. The contradiction is subtle, but I had to pick one side or another. It may not apply in your game, but it at least did once apply to the backstyory.

    10) There may have been some confusion on my part, although I recall they implied, at least, that the I-Elves got their immortality from it. Of course, the game book authors were so busy being mysterious about sundry trivial matters that nobody really had any good info on them. I never got to read any Earthdawn material, either.

    12) No doubt, but charismatic individuals are not that uncommon. Even an ordinary salesman can get much better with just a little magic (also things like influence emotions or reduce willpower on important targets, etc.). Plus, the I-Elves apparently had considerable financial resources. But this was a way (maybe the only halfway-reasonable way) to explain some of the nonsense which occurred.

    13) No, Leonardo made no sense. And nothing he supposedly did ever impacted the game.

    14) Don’t ask me, either. The conversation never made much sense. But that is what they claim. I never said they weren’t stupid, erroneous, or non-hypocrites, either. That said, they may have succeeded in breaking up many large, formal religions that kept certain social ideals and pressures under control.

    “interestingly, the evolutionary multiverse theories strongly suggest that the ultimate purpose of sentient life is to extend the lifespan of their universe indefinitely and enable its reproduction” – Well, a lot of theories say a lot of things. I highly doubt this one is correct.

    “the notion that “cold equations” are “devoid of meaning” is false” – Of course they have meaning. It’s simply not a very important meaning. They may (sometimes) tell you how to do something, but that unfortunately cannot tell you what you ought to do. And as much as mankind has problems with the former, the latter has probably been our biggest issue. Especially in Shadowrun, where with enough money you can do anything, but you probably shouldn’t.

    Anyway, religion in Shadowrun isn’t very hostile to magic, except for a branch of two or Islam. Catholicism says you shouldn’t summon spirits without permission, and a couple others put limits on what you ought do. That’s about it. So perhaps they weren’t really needed. Magic which doesn’t rely on making pacts with black-hearted devils for power apparently doesn’t worry anyone. Of course, there are people making such bargains…

  4. 2) Since this was apparently intended to be useful to the players in some fashion, they need to be able to derive information from it. That means either setting based facts (narrator or in-game observation viewpoint) or information about the game world from a sentient source within it (character viewpoint, with appropriate biases – in which case the task is to sort information about the world from information about the speaker and his/her/its biases). Who is speaking? Is it a narrator, or does he or she exist in the general canon world (possibly useful to site browsers, not useful in the current game) or in the current setting?

    3) No. I am making sure that any player reading this is aware that some of the information being presented is not accurate. Ergo, this is not a “narrator” viewpoint piece. If it was only intended to amuse the readers, it does not actually have anything to do with the current Shadowrun game. If it’s supposed to be for the canon Shadowrun world, it hasn’t got much to do with the current game. If it’s supposed to be useful to the current game, we need to know how the information is being presented to the characters. Just as importantly, all out-of-character information would need to be removed and – as game master – I would also have to know why it was being presented and who had actually originated it in the game world.
    If it’s from the narrator viewpoint, all information needs to be accurate, well-defined, and presented without emotional loading. Preferably it would also all be information currently available to the characters in the setting, since otherwise it becomes necessary to keep track of player and character information seperately, but that is sometimes necessary.
    If it’s from a character viewpoint, the character needs to be identified and it needs to be restricted to information available to that character.
    If it’s form a player viewpoint, it is irrelevant to the current game except as speculation – and should be labeled as such, rather than implying a narrator viewpoint by presenting new information as “facts”.
    Pick a viewpoint. Tell the reader what it is.

    5) Ergo, using 2000 census data, definitions, and current estimates – since the first VITAS epidemic is only a few years ahead by the timeline. In any case, regional “character” does not matter to the transportation systems, population density, and the other practical factors that affected the distribution of medical resources during the VITAS epidemic.

    6) Yes: in the first edition book before the first edition grimoire. This is another viewpoint problem: information on how the authors failed to update their timeline as they published new material is useful in a review, when suggesting ways to fix the problem when writing about possible revisions to the game or setting, and possibly from a narrator viewpoint (pointing up areas for further investigation since an apparent contradiction in the setting is an indication of hidden information). An in-character viewpoint necessarily springs from a particular setting, and should be compatible with its current rules.

    10) Who wouldn’t be? They published thousands of pages worth of stuff.

    12) Very true. This does not mean that a stronger control input into a chaotic system – such as society – guarantees a desired outcome. If it did, the most competent individuals would form a fairly stable hierarchy, which does not seem to happen. Greater competence does not guarantee better results in a chaotic system, and may not even increase the odds.

    13) Not quite true: our Immortal-Elven-Super-Decker was supposed to have been involved in the Renraku Arcology Shutdown and some major corporate events – although his supposed role in them never made a lot of sense either.

    14) Another reason why extrapolating a significant level of activity from an isolated, self-contradictory, comment doesn’t make much sense anyway. There is no background evidence in the Shadowrun sourcebooks that an attempt to break up large formal religions was ever made: their starting positions in the setting as of 2011 – two years from now – don’t seem to have changed much from their real-world history wherein we are fairly sure that neither immortal elves nor dragons have tried to meddle.

    Now, regardless of your opinion of the evolutionary multiverse theories, they suffice to demonstrate that “Cold equations” can indeed have something to say about both a purpose for life and what you “ought” to do. Personal incredulity is not an effective argument against observation – and some people do find both purpose and codes of behavior in such things.

    As far as magic and religion goes, I’m glad you agree that the stated reason for the supposed attempts to diminish the role of religion in human society – “so that when magic returned they might be more open to it and embrace it more quickly” – makes no sense. That leaves us with one comment, that contradicts itself, discribing a nonsensical reason for a supposed large-scale conspiracy, which – if it ever existed – had no effect. Said comment may have been an attempt to manipulate “The Big D”’s listeners, but I doubt that it’s an indication of anything that ever actually happened in the setting.

  5. Mate, I tried to make sense of the senseless, and partway through you trying to fiddle and fix things too. So I’m running off multiple canon versions and your version. I’m doing the best that can be done.

    2) Well, originally it was one and then became the other, when you started changing the canon. I wound up having to fill in the gaps.

    5) Actually, I was still not being clear: I should have focused more on regional breakups. Still, the big “historical” urban centers often stayed together: it was farther, more independant and isolated cities which broke off. So they were urbanized, but also suburbanized and more rural in character and orientation. Bad description on my part.

    12) Actually, I figure they were just counting on creating enough of a mess to get away with whatever they wanted, and boosting already-powerful and capable leaders. Which does seem to have worked even in the well-known timeline. Of course, some of the leaders might well have been I-elves themselves, but it’s impossible to say exactly.

    14) However, I must still disagree with you on whether “Cold equations” can impart purpose or meaning. People may take some meaning from them, but the knowledge, like all knowledge is ultiamtely meaningless. It is simply useful, and does not tell you to do anything. it simply says what you ought to do. The idea that life could create more universes, even if true, does not suggest in the least that we should. That’s a human judgement, and quite arbitrary.

    Anyway, they claimed to have tried and succeeded. Since the authors refuse to ever state what they did or how, I had very little to work with and decided to vei them a better role.

  6. 2) Well, that does make it awkward to use. Oh well.

    14) Trouble there is, purpose and meaning are where you find them. Direct inspiration may be another matter, but everything derived from formal religion is also simply derived from presented information. Equations are just another form of it and – as an observation – some people do find purpose and meaning in such theories. Since it has occured, it must be possible.

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