Posted by: markfender | May 23, 2012

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary – Gear

Only 73 more pages!

Night Shift
Oh, look. Katana fetishization. Excellent.

Street Gear
At long last we come to one of the densest chapters – gear. I could spend hours staring at the numbers and comparing weaponry against each other, but I’m tired. So let’s just say “Yup. That’s a lot of gear.”

This chapter starts off with the Concealability rules. It’s important to note that this is only for physical searches so that surveillance state stuff is either on or off, depending on the capriciousness of your GM. Good to know. Then we’ve got some rules for Availability and fencing gear, which is always handy if your group has taken their dungeoncrawly heritage too far and collects all their downed foes’ equipment.

So, what does gear cover? Lots. There’s a list of common services, tons of weapons (complete with pictures!), armor, electronics, communications, simsense programming, fake IDs, B&E accessories, survival gear, vehicles, drones and tons of cyberware and bioware. There’s also charts for some of the equipment presented in other chapters, so it’s all in one place. Two things that stood out to me: MMOs in the future have a monthly fee (how quaint), and the commlinks and their operating systems all have brand names. Granted, the guns have brand names, too but a lot of the other gear is just given generic descriptors. I like this inclusion. Makes it feel more cyberpunky.

Shadowrun Master Index
Last but not least we have the index. But this is no ordinary index. No, it’s an index that includes the main book and five other “core” sourcebooks (Arsenal, Augmentation, Runner’s Companion, Street Magic, and Unwired). Everything’s color-coordinated and it runs 21 pages. It also includes a listing of all the Tables from these six books. In other words, it is the greatest index of all time. Seriously, I bought the Anniversary edition solely because of the index (Well, I probably would have bought it anyway, but I specifically wanted to show my monetary support for such an index – Little did I know my monetary support went towards home improvement). It’s sad that this sort of thing needs to be called out, but there it is.

So, in summary, what do we have here? Well, for one, we have a ridiculously long “review” that proved useful for no one in particular. Congratulations, me! We also have a really nice core rulebook for a game that fails to hit its mission statement. Not that this is anything particularly new in gaming, especially from a game invented in the ’80s. Still, it was always a pretty fun game, even if it didn’t really know what it wanted to be. But I feel like the 4th edition rules took two wrong turns: 1) the elimination of variable target numbers led to an escalation in both the number of dice rolled and the number of times those dice need to be rolled – making the game less fun in the process. Now, I’m not claiming that they’re werent problems with previous editions – I was excited to see the new edition because I wanted to see those problems eliminated. But it just seemed to lead to a whole other category of problems. 2) ascribing too much realism to their fake world. The legitimate concerns of a surveillance state and its logical extrapolations are realistic to the extreme. But they make the core premise of the game unworkable. Shadowrunners, at least as they’ve been imagined for the last twenty years, can’t exist with the security currently in place.

But the game did do some stuff right. It advanced the setting into the present – i.e. what the present thinks the future will hold. Well, okay, maybe not quite what the future will hold, but within the parameters of a ubiquitous cyberware-equipped criminal underclass. I don’t truck with nostalgia and I’m glad to see this march into the future, even if it does err towards realism over genre emulation. It also has really great art. At first, I was thinking “oh, this art is pretty good” but in the course of writing this review I flipped through my 3rd edition book (to refresh my memory on how the rules used to be) and, dear God, that art is atrocious. Like, I’m not even sure how I was ever able to play the old game with a straight face, the art is so bad. So this book actually gets bumped up in the art department after comparing it to previous products. Plus, it has the index to end all indexes.

In other good news, in the time its taken me to write this, my book has gradually warped back into normal book-shape. So yay.


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