Posted by: markfender | May 16, 2012

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary – Running

This book just goes on and on and on…

Hat Trick
Worst detective story evar. Just because the author points out that its a hackneyed plot doesn’t infuse the story with fresh life. It’s still hackneyed. A better writer might have been able to turn that around, but no.

Running the Shadows
This is the “odds and ends” chapter. It covers a wide range of topics, so I’ll try to hit ’em fast.

First, we have healing. There’s two types, First Aid and Medicine. I’m a little confused by the Healing Modifiers Table as to which skill it applies to. Both? It’s especially amusing because you can apply both to yourself, but one of the modifiers is for an uncooperative patient. “Stop being such a baby, me. It’s just a flesh wound.” Again, cyberware screws you, as its harder to apply healing to a heavily cybered character.

Next there’s Toxins. As a dungeon-crawly game, I guess poison effects have a place but it’s always seemed sorta lame to me. “Hey, your character is going to suck for awhile. Hope you don’t mind.” As far as rules go, these seem fine. I like the fact that Sleep Deprivation is written up using the Toxin format. If it fits, why not?

Next, we have drugs. This is the most roleplay-oriented section in the whole book. There’s lots of advice about how often your character should roleplay their drug cravings, how to roleplay the effects of drugs, and just generally a lot of handwaving. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just odd that this is the section of the game that decides to forgo rules and concentrate on roleplaying. Not to say there aren’t rules. It kind of amuses me that the cocaine equivalent gives you a +1 Charisma. It’s odd that hallucinogenics have the lowest Threshold to avoid Addiction but hallucinogenic BTLs (Better-Than-Life chips – simsense chips that let you experience someone else’s life with the gain turned WAY UP) have the highest Threshold to avoid Addiction.

Next we have Security Systems. As a general description of the sort of defenses shadowrunners might run into at the location they’re about to ransack, I have no problem with this. However, when we get into nitty-gritty rules involving individual systems and the tools that overcome them, I’m less excited. Look, I get that this is the section on traps and that traps are a staple of genre, but there’s a big difference between a pit trap (which ultimately is just an inconvenience) and a laser tripwire system (which turns the infiltration into a shoot-out). One is yet another obstacle in a long chain of obstacles on the way to the treasure, while the latter is a session ender. It also feels a bit like pixelbitching, in which the GM can place the one sensor that the party didn’t account for in their most-of-the-session planning marathon. Leave that critical lock-picking tool at home? Hah! Adventure over! This section also the single worst modifier in the entire game. Join me in the next paragraph for a rant.

The Pheremone Scanner Table (which has all of two modifiers) lists “Menstruating (females only)” as a modifier. Are you fucking kidding me? Is that the sort of detail that the writers of Shadowrun think is important? Is there any reason that this would ever come up, from a purely role-playing standpoint? Is this the sort of message we should be sending to potential female gamers? “Hey, you know that thing that happens to you once a month that confuses and frightens me? Well, it’s a liability. Go make me a sandwich.” Fuck you Shadowrun. In addition, how is this represented in the rules? Because I don’t see any other mention of gender in these rules anywhere (other than “attracted to character” in the Charisma-linked Skills section, but that could go either way, or the same way really). So, the one time that gender is a factor, it’s negative towards women. This is the equivalent of the ol’ +2 Charisma, -2 Strength bullshit from the 70s. Not to mention its a stupid fiddly rule for a detail that is NEVER going to come up, except to annoy an entire gender.


The next section is on Reputation, which is tracked three ways: Street Cred, Notoriety, and Public Awareness.  I generally like this section as its a rule reinforcing the genre and that happens so rarely in this game. It’s also awesome that one way to gain Notoriety is “working for a dragon” which just backs up the ol’ Shadowrun tagline “Never, ever deal with a dragon” with an actual game effect. That’s awesome. But that goodwill goes away when we get to the Identification section that details all the ways that not having a SIN can screw you. Because I definitely want to play a criminal in a surveillance state. That won’t be difficult or anything.

Speaking of criminals, it’s always struck me as odd that Shadowrun uses the word “Karma” for its Experience Points. That sorta implies that the PCs are out doing good deeds, which they are decidedly not.

Next we have Gamemaster Advice. This is mostly your standard GM advice that you’ve seen before, but with a few added sections on the typical Shadowrun adventure and a breakdown of the types of opposition you might face. I’m going to quote two pieces of advice in this section. See if you can spot the issue. “If [the players] don’t sweat for every Karma point and nuyen they earned, then you’re not pushing them hard enough.” “…the gamemaster can fudge the dice roll to keep the character alive.” Those two things are opposite, you stupid game. In the discussion on prep time, the GM is also encouraged to not give the players enough time to adequately plan their infiltration. I guess so you can hurry up and get to the part where it all goes wrong anyway and the bullets start flying.

I hate this chapter so much.


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