Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12 Games of X-Mas 3: "Three French Fixers"

Next up on the list is a game I have a pretty strong love/hate relationship... Shadowrun.  Specifically for me when I talk about Shadowrun I mean 3rd edition as I haven't had a chance to actually run 4th and can't seem to get myself to actually finished either the 1st or 2nd edition books.  As I have heard from several of my more experience Runners they all seem to agree that this may be the weakest edition and I apologize in advance if that isn't giving the game a fare shake, but as it's what I have to work with it's what I have to write about.

The Good:
As with those that came before I will start with what I true like about this game.

  • Welcome to Shadowrun
    • If there is one common opinion I've gathered from every gamer I've ever talked to about this game it is that the world is awesome.  I know plenty of people that play Shadowrun just for the world and in spite of it's mechanics.  It's like Tolkien had a one night stand with Blade Runner and then dropped the unborn baby off in a dumpster on the way to prom.  It's gritty, dark, and deadly all while being mysterious, fantastical, and amazing.  I have to hand it to the creators for finding a way to let you be a troll wandering the streets of Seattle covers in cybernetics.
  • Toys Everywhere
    • For anyone that likes gear this is the game for you.  Between magic talismans to tricked out robots, to cars and tanks you can drive from your apartment a player in Shadowrun can have more trinkets and do-dads than they could ever want.
  • Buckets of Dice
    • There really is something great about getting to roll dice and that only gets better when you get to roll handfuls at a time.  I will say that dice pool systems do have their flaws in stopping everything to count how many dice now count and how many I re-roll and how many of those count and so on, but let's face it the actual roll and clatter of a fist full of dice will bring a smile to most of our faces.

The Bad:
Now for those reasons that despite the begging and pleading of one of my players I have not and unless swayed otherwise will not run Shadowrun anymore.

  • Too Much of a Good Thing
    • As I mentioned this game is full of toys and gear and loot, and that is great for players when they have a single character to worry about, but as a GM having to manage what loots enemies would have, what loots I need to worry about my players getting a hold of, and what might my crazier players try to negotiate for or even worse make themselves all becomes a spread sheet of work that I would rather leave at an office rather than at my game table.  Most things like magic, cyberware, and bioware is simple enough to adjust, but what do you do when your party asks if the hospital they are breaking out of has a helicopter?  I'll tell you what you do, unless you lie about what the book says than you have to say yes.  And these are crack thieves and hackers so they take the helicopter (worth about 3 MILLION) and sell it for parts to their contacts as it comes stock with lots of nice valuable and definitely sell-able items.  Even if you rip them off as 10% that's still enough that no one needs to work for a year.
  • A Balancing Act
    • One of the great aspects of Shadowrun is how they created a world where super tech and magic exist together and it makes sense.  The problem is between your normal Runners, your Hackers, and any caster you might have that can interact with the world of magic that leave three separate levels to build. Sure not every building will have magic protection and that shaman's place in the middle of no where might not have much tech, but the second they go to a place with real money (ie: where a job will take you) then you better believe they have both.  This wouldn't be too much of an issue except each world has it's own rules on how you handle then while at the same time all being able to effect the other worlds and that just comes out to a GM learning to juggle three mini games within a single game.
  • Creep Creep Power Creep
    • If you've been reading this far you should notice that gear is a plenty in the game and sometimes over powered gear slips through your GM grasp.  The problem here is that while yes a good haul for the characters should leave them able to not work weeks or even months the players will not see it that way.  IF you don't give them jobs they will instead make their own looking to knock off banks or break into research labs which just enables more loot to build.  The game itself goes with this assumption that runners are nearly always broke living job to job only in the life to get by, but even the jobs written by the publishers pay off well enough that there is no way a team of compitent runners is broke and with that money they just get more powerful.
  • Fan Service
    • Look I'm a fan of fluff and world building, but sometimes enough is enough.  Shadowrun seems to know how amazing their world is and they want to show you more.  The problem is how they want to show it.  Every chapter has at least one "short story" to help everyone get into the mood of the game.  The problem is I've read fan fiction better done than most of these and I'm pretty sure most of what is in the book is just that, fan fiction they found someone writing and decided to use themselves.  If I wanted to read books in the setting I would go and buy novels and read them.  When I'm looking to find one of those weird rules that only account for hackers on the net or a mage in the spirit world I do not want to have to skip through five short stories I care nothing about.

Final Thoughts:
Honestly I've done a lot of bashing on Shadowrun and that's not entirely fare.  If I could be a player I would definitely be up for a session or three, but sadly I'm our group's GM and I hate running this system.  The world is amazing, the gear is fun even if it could be scaled back a bit, but the mechanics are a bit too bloated to juggle so many aspects at once and the formatting of the books is an absolute mess.  Personally if you can run this world in a system you already know well I would do that over this, but if you are better at multitasking than me or have a flare for spread sheets then go for it.  At the end of the day it's a fun game and my group still tells stories from the campaign we had.


  1. I agree with all your points.

    We recently just finished a Savage Worlds Shadowrun campaign that lasted over a year. and it was AMAZING!

    We used SW + Fantasy Companion + Daring Tales of the Sprawl from TAG (you could hack Interface Zero as well). Ever since 1st ed Shadowrun i've been trying to make it work with any and almost every rules system out there. And finally found the perfect fit.

    I can't recommend it highly enough. I would advise doing a trial run with your group and see how it handles for you.

    1. I'm not going to lie I would love to see that formatted into something I could read. I've only stumbled across one Savage Worlds conversion out there and it was incredibly short and lacking.


    Here is what we used for cyber/hacking, for Magic we used the Fantasy Companion.

    1. I do love the Daring Tales series, I'll have the check out the sprawl one

  3. Shadowrun is up to the 5th-edition now. Personally, my opinion of it is, "Why do people keep buying that stuff?" Colourful setting, I'll give it that. Fair disclosure, I'm a Cyberpunk man, which has no fantasy or magic in it.

    1. ...unless you count that third-party supplement about vampires. Hah, that was funny to spring onto the players.