Shadowrun (1992)

Shadowrun! What an interesting nexus of a game. It originally came out in 1989 and was both the first and most restrained of the big cross genre games (Rifts and Torg both came out in 1990). It took a lot from Cyberpunk while at the same time anticipated a lot of what Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) would eventually do aesthetically and mechanically. It is also one of the first RPGs to nail the presentation of a new system alongside an intriguing setting in the same core book. All this came together to create one of the biggest and most enduring RPGs of all time.

It might have been bigger still if they nailed it from the start, but the first iteration of the rules was less than streamlined. FASA corrected that with this, the Second Edition, in 1992, which gave it a much needed polish and a bunch of awesome new art (welcome, Tim Bradstreet!). There are still a lot of interacting systems for my tastes (which are more inclined toward simplicity in my old age), but the game boils down to a fairly straight forward D6 dice pool system at the end of the day.

The world of Shadowrun is interesting. A series of events caused massive unrest and political changes, culminating with the return of magic into the world (and with it, elves, orcs, trolls, dragons and more). While governments fragmented, corporations consolidated power and are essentially the villains of the setting. In terms of the world, a shadowrun is a mission of corporate espionage where a small team steals from or otherwise messes up the interests of a megacorp (which inevitably reveals their involvement in some kind of labyrinthine conspiracy). I am all about games that encourage radical anti-corporate messaging, so A+, Shadowrun.

Lot of great art inside. Bradstreet, yes. But also Janet Aulisio and Jeff Laubenstein do some stellar work. Jim Nelson, though, probably defines Shadowrun’s look for me. Nearly all the art is very complimentary, working together to create a varied, gritty world. Not a huge fan of the Elmore cover though (sacrilege?).

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