How Operators Operate ...

Combined Arms Operations

"Combined arms in combined-arms operations means coordinated action by elements of different combat arms. The term is usually used in relation to combat activities at the tactical level, up to and including the division. The main characteristics of combined-arms combat are fire and movement. Effective employment of combined arms is assured by allocation of tasks in combat, as well as by training and education of personnel." (p. 220, Brassey's Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare)

As mentioned previously, and as the definition suggests, it is absolutely key that each member of the Shadowrun team understand his or her area of expertise and responsibilities and seek to master both of them. The learning curve on the streets is almost vertical: you have very little time to get yourself up to speed and even when you do there's no plateau. Faster, better, meaner is what you're up against. You have to try and optimize the resources available to you by choosing the elements of the team well. Obviously some restriction will be felt since people will want to play certain characters, but that shouldn't be an excuse for a team of all samurai's or a team full of mages. Despite its obvious combat connotations, combined-arms is a full time occupation. Corporations may need shadowrunners in order for business to continue as usual, but the most lethal mistake you can make is thinking you're irreplaceable. Every minute another would be runner is born, waiting in the wings for you to make that critical error that reduces you to inert components. Do not believe for a second that the Corp can't find a dozen someones just like you to do the job if you suddenly prove troublesome.

That being said, though, there are a couple of things you can do to make yourself more attractive to a Corporation. First, be good at what you do. Hone your skills. Study your opposition. Train. Train hard. Bring your team up to a level of competence and keep them there. Secondly, maintain your reputation. In the Shadowrunning business you can't really advertise on the evening trid. Your business card will be the word of mouth passed from Johnson to Johnson. Or the word of operators you've gone up against in the past. Remember your reputation isn't just a sometime thing. It's all the time. You can't just go in and edit out a run gone wrong like it's some kind of videotape. Everything you do in public, every decision you make reflects on you as a professional, as a shadowrunner, and on your team as a whole.

Now that we've covered some of the basics, let's move on to a discussion on tactics. What I'm going to use here is what I call level one tactical thinking. That is, trying to put yourself in the place of your enemy to anticipate his action. As the name suggests, there are further tactical levels you can explore. Level two tactics involve manipulating the enemy into a course of action by providing a specific stimuli. Any classic feint is an example of level two tactics. Level three tactics go even deeper, and involve specific disninformation fed to the enemy to entice him into believing that you're feinting when you're not. Use of a double-blind maneuver is a demonstration of level three tactics. While all of these are definitely useful tricks and merit investigation, I don't want to devote the time and space necessary to elucidate them fully at this point. As I work out what I feel are appropriate tactics I'll share them. For now, I'll limit my discussion to level one tactics, the easiest of all tactical decision making models.

In its simplest terms, level one tactical thinking asks: "If I were the enemy, what would I do to stop me?" What kind of security system/procedures/personnel would you have on site to prevent an intrusion like the one you're planning? Obviously you need to temper your answers with the knowledge that not every corporate R&D facility has the same level of security as Zurich Orbital, but you can make educated guesses based upon your reconnaissance of the site. The questions, though, are designed to drive your surveillance. For instance, camera surveillance. Pretty easy, pretty standard security measure. But where are the cameras located? Field of view? Do they move? Do they have low-light/thermographic capability or are they dependent on external light sources? If yes, where are those light sources? Are the cameras hardwired into the security center or are they wireless? What kind of malfunction reporting do they have? Do they function equally well in rain or snow or fog? Admittedly, you may not be able to answer all of these questions, but that shouldn't stop you from trying. After all, there's a wealth of information out there for the discerning customer, all you have to do is know where to look for it. Manufacturer's catalogs, trade show publications, test and evaluations, independent lab verification reports, all of these have information that could impact the tactical model you're building. Investigate. Anticipate. The deck is already stacked against you, use every possible edge you can to even the odds.

Apart from simple mechanical/technological security levels, the tactical decision making model also attempts to determine which method of mission accomplishment is more likely to succeed. This is along the lines of simply listing the pro/con aspects of each intrusion method. Invariably you will hit upon one or two weak points in the security structure. One of which is almost always the (meta)human factor. (Meta)humans can't go for hours on end like a machine; they blink, they get hungry, thirsty, they have to use the bathroom, they're distracted, disillusioned. Sometimes fooling a security system is as easy as fooling the (meta)human operators of that system. Sometimes you aren't that lucky. Now that we have defined what it is we want to accomplish, how do we go about accomplishing it? That I cannot tell you, as it will vary from mission to mission. In general, though, you should use every available method of information gathering at your disposal. Physical surveillance, electronic surveillance, eavesdropping, wiretapping, humint, historical research, all of these can reveal weaknesses in an adversary's shielding. Weaknesses that may be exploitable.

Again, a thorough tactical discussion could take several dozen pages, so I'm going to limit the damage to what I've said already. For further information I recommend several sources, the first of which being the classics The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the second is The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. For the more modern age, there are any number of Army and Marine Corps publications on small unit tactics and urban warfare. I would hesitate to recommend any of the books written by ex-special forces members since I have been warned against their verisimilitude. A book I would recommend though is Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. It details the events surrounding the crash of two U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters in Mogadishu. As I come across more texts that detail information useful to a Shadowrun campaign I'll post them here. If anyone out there has a book or text they think would be helpful, please notify me so I can review it and summarize it here.

Standard Operating Procedures

Now before I get everyone who's got a bone to pick about checklists crawling all over me let me preface this section with a statement: having an SOP is not necessary and may in some cases be dangerous. Now that I've said that, why am I talking about this stuff at all? Because it might just save your life. I can't tell you how many times I've had this scenario happen:

A group ofrunners is broken up by an encounter into smaller units, sometimes individuals. They all take off in different directions to evade pursuit. I ask "where are you going to meet up?" Blank stares around the table. Eventually they all turn to look at the one person who has bought a lifestyle other than street. This person immediately, and wisely, says "NO!" This is followed by a five minute discussion in which they discover that not everyone has a phone or comm unit. Finally, the ones in contact agree to meet at the hangouts of the ones without communications.

This all could have been avoided with some prearranged plans. Nothing elaborate, all it would have taken was one person saying beforehand: "If anything happens, meet at the tube station on the corner of West 128th and Grayson in two hours." Common sense, you say? You'd be surprised. Of course, you can always get more elaborate. Having SOPs means that you know the rest of your team has at least an idea of what they're supposed to do in the event something goes wrong. Which it inevitably will. Now before you all jump on the bandwagon and create twenty seven step SOP checklists, let me pose one important caveat. When a team uses SOPs it must be aware that a time will come that it must break that SOP. Usually that's after two or three runs when it works really well. The gamemaster, in his devious way, will create a scenario in which using the SOP will run the team right into more trouble. Not that I'd ever suggest that gamemasters were out to get their players.

Further, players should resist the temptation to draft SOPs for every conceivable situation or outcome. That's counterproductive and will end up wasting more time and doing more harm than good. Limit yourselves to a few very simple three or four step checklists for certain specific situations that arise often. Say, for instance, that you go to meet with a Johnson and the team is attacked. It's easy enough to brief "everyone inside the club/restaurant/whatever head towards the rear exit, everyone outside pile into the car(s) and drive to the rear exit." This way there's no confusion amongst team members as the security element that waited in the car stands their ground, thinking that everyone on the inside is headed out the front while everyone at the meet decides discretion is the better part of valor and beats feet out the back.