Bills to Pay
This is the main setting for the campaign.
Seattle is truly, unbelievably massive. Between thirty-eight and forty-two million people in one space. It has several different downtowns, blocks of miserable tenements rising a quarter mile into the sky and corporate headquarters twice that height. Its outskirts are a mix of squalid shantytowns and exclusive, expensive private communities. These communities aren’t merely gated, but walled, patrolled and armed.
Some of the biggest players in town are: IBM, Daimler-Benz, Sony, Yamaha, 3M, Honeywell, Lockheed-Martin, BMW, Exxon, and Krupp. There are, of course, scores more.
The state mostly belongs to the top tiers of executives of the world’s 100 or so largest corporations, and Seattle is ruled by a council of delegates from the top 15 of these. Only about half of the city – the good half – is owned and regulated by the corps of the council. The massive commercial airport, the seaport (rivaled in size and volume only by LA), and the commercial and manufacturing districts are all owned and policed by one corp or another. They have stakes, to one degree or another, in various parts of the slums and shanty towns, but these are generally ruled and policed by themselves in “Hoods”. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. Paramount has just bulldozed a beachhead for itself and set up shop, but no one knows how that’s going to turn out.
The only true outlaws in Seattle are the greens. “Greens” is the catch-all everyday term applied to the organization or organizations with ecological agendas. They liberate animals used for testing, assassinate unwary industry leaders, and on one occasion, set off a dirty bomb in an Exxon enclave using conventional explosives and radioactive material looted from the company’s own dump sites. There are lots of rumors about who the greens are, in large part because they steadfastly refuse elimination at the hands of the extremely powerful corporations. It seems likely that they recruit heavily from the slums, where people live and die in the filth and disease created in part by the corps, but they also very likely get help from one or more outside sources. Every attempt at penetrating their networks has failed, at most killing off a single cell without touching any of the true strategic targets, or even finding out if they’re one group or many.
The economy is mostly electronic, although a thriving barter economy lives side by side with its currency-based sibling. The world’s banking system runs off of the Californian Dollar, and Californian banks are where much of the world’s liquid assets reside. The grand old banks of Switzerland are still around, however, and are certainly able to make a living in competition with the upstarts. Both banking systems have digital security systems backed up by strike teams stationed around the world. If you’re detected trying to break into their vaults, chances are that you’re going to be visited by a killsquad within five to ten minutes. If they can’t get actual operatives in, they’re perfectly willing to drop a bomb or two on your location instead. It’s unclear what might happen should such an attempt originate within California, but (probably luckily,) that hasn’t happened yet. Brief, vicious wars have erupted over attempts originating within the major corps, but these are rare: attacking the banking system is a good way to make yourself a universal target, and indeed, the arms manufacturer Raytheon was destroyed by an impromptu alliance and its assets distributed amongst its rivals in 2053 following an ill-advised attempt to annex the Swiss banks.
Anything and everything can be bought in Seattle, from arms to information to slaves to engineered zooplankton. The hoods wage wars against each other for territory, rising corporate managers hire hits on their bosses, industrial espionage is commonplace, and the lack of any inter-agency cooperation between the menagerie of enforcement divisions, militias, and security forces means that there are plenty of cracks to live in. Shadowrunners walk a fine line between being known and trusted and the sort of fame that will get you hunted down and killed. Worldly forces aren’t the only ones at work, of course, and knowing what you’re working for is just as important as knowing who you’re working for. But then, if the money’s good enough, maybe sometimes it’s better not to ask.