Okay, let’s be very clear about this: I am an old-school “Shadowrun” player. I started with First edition, spent most of my time with Second edition (my favorite to this day), and I own Third edition as well. I am a solid FASA-guy, when it comes to this game, and have not tried any of the latter games from Catalyst Game Lab, so fans of the newer titles should take that into account, before coming unglued in the comments section.
Anyway, I love “Shadowrun”. It is a great game, with a wonderful setting, and I would KILL for a mint-condition edition of the hardback 2nd Edition rulebook (mine is so worn out that it is ready to fall apart!). Catalyst, if you see this, can we maybe get a print-on-demand option for 2e, at the very least? LET ME THROW MONEY AT YOU!
But, that aside, there are a few… foibles… with the game, that I simply must address, below.
Five Things I Hate About “Shadowrun”
- Magic. I don’t know how else to say it: The Magic system in SR is just… well… bad. If they were going for an arcane feel to these rules, well, the developers nailed it, because the Magic rules are exactly that. Arcane, and not in a good way. Bloated, convoluted, and just plain tiresome to use at the table, I can only think of one system in the game that might be actually worse, which would be…
- Deckers. Want to kill an exciting an exciting adventure in just one, simple step? Allow a player to make a Decker as their character, then let them gain access to the Matrix. MARVEL as your other players sit and twiddle their thumbs, while you have to maneuver the Decker PC through the labyrinthine Matrix (in both rules and mechanics)! BE AMAZED as the other players disengage from the game entirely, start playing on their phones, talk among themselves, or just outright leave in boredom! And, if you ever get back to the rest of the group, WONDER why no one in the group wants to come back for another session of “Shadowrun” ever again! By the way, trying to bounce betwee the Decker and the rest of the group just leaves everyone disengaged and unhappy, so, yeah… No bueno.
- The Dicepools. So, how many d6 do you own? Not just in your tabletop roleplaying dice collection, I mean in general. How many d6 are there in your home overall, including board games, hiding in the back of some loose items drawer, and so on? YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH, FRIEND! Think your dice tray can handle rolling all of the many, many, many d6 you’ll be slinging nigh constantly in this game? Not likely! YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER TRAY!
- Updates. “Shadowrun” is currently on its sixth edition. First FASA, and now Catalyst have updated and reupdated SR so many times, that it is completely unrecognizable from its original form… oh, no, wait… It is actually not all that different, from edition to edition. Sure, there have been major revisions here or there, but in the end, all of the same problems I discuss here (and more!) remain in SR, from the first to the current version of the game! Oh, but wait, there’s more! Pretty much each new edition includes pretty much the same supplements you had in the previous ones, albeit tweaked to match whatever few rules got updated here or there. I get it, though… They need to make money somehow, right? That’s all well and good, but we players and referees need to have some consistency, too. SR peaked with 2nd edition. Maybe they should have just stuck with that, and continued to expand the setting (see below) and create more supplement books?
- The Setting. Easily one of the best features of “Shadowrun”, is also among the weakest. I really enjoy the idea of “Shadowrun”, a sci-fi, dystopian, Cyberpunk world, mixed with Fantasy elements. But the idea is one thing… the execution is entirely another. Players will defend the world of “Shadowrun” to the bitter end in most cases, but when you get right down to it, you could do the same thing better with dozens of other games, and more polished, to boot. In the end, the setting for SR is just rather mundane, which is the last thing a game like this wants.
Anyway, all that aside, great game! Seriously, though… Catalyst. POD for 2e, especially if you can do a hardback option! I can’t even find an affordable softbound 2e rulebook in reasonable condition anymore. Don’t let the best edition of “Shadowrun” disappear into history!