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Shadowrun: Cutting Black (Plot Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2020 20:35:00

I recommend waiting for a sale or leaving it be. The plot developments themselves are good to know, but clearly do not take up the 178 pages in this book, what with all the dilly-dallying the authors did in the first few sections. Later parts of the book are good, so it's kind of a pain that it starts rough.

The "Detroit Rupture" section itself is just what the jackpointers keep saying it is- Bug City all over again. The fallout from the events is more interesting, but I think too much time was spent on the event itself (Which was pretty much just a Bug City/Boston CFD rehash).

The next section, "Ghost Army," is dialogue focused. Unfortunately, the dialogue's not that great, unless you enjoy killer lines like "Bravon wun tree this foxtrot Zulu wun wun." The reader can infer that they're using the NATO phonetic alphabet for military radio chatter, there's no need to show the dialect. Personal dislike of mine, I don't like when people write things like "runnin" or "gotta" in dialogue, either. It becomes distraction, rather than enhancing the reader experience. It also feels a lot less authentic when later on they say "Sitrep is red, repeat red." I don't really expect perfection in military lingo, but saying repeat on the radio means you want to repeat the last barrage of artillery fire. It doesn't mean the english meaning. It just bothered me that the author went to the effort of getting the authentic pronounciation of the NATO alphabet/numbers, and kept throwing in things like "fubar" for the sake of it, but still made easy mistakes like that. Honestly, the level of forced military lingo in the rest of the section makes it almost comical- I don't mind over the top, but there's no substance to the characters beyond the fact that they use military lingo.

No major complaints about the Blackout section, but kind of boring to read. Possibly my fault, since I listened to the SCN podcasts and I loved those a lot.

I liked the UCrASh section quite a bit- a lot of places got love that normally wouldn't. The Seattle independence has been a long time coming.

Detroit Now and Atlanta Now were also well written, and "As the Dust Settles" was useful for folks who got bored during the first few sections of the book, but wanted to know what happened.

It's a little odd that a "chiark" (Cheetah-shark?) monster was introduced in "Ghost Army," but not placed in Game Information. There was plenty of white space available for a stat block.

One thing I noticed is that there isn't really all that much art in the book, which is fine for a plot book, but it made the boring sections worse. (I'd also rather them have less art, than hire more artists and not pay them. So there's that.) There's also lots of typos- things that a spellchecker won't catch, but a human editor would ("All most", "Bravon", etc). Some weird grammatical things, too. "Saeder-Krupp controls the rest of the building, renting out half of it. Everything else is rented." So, half of it is rented, and the rest is rented? Par the course for the SR line, but this stuff is still annoying.

Edit: Revising to 4/5, Dani made a good point, and it was only a small chapter of the book. Def won't go to 5/5 though, because of the editing issues and other issues in the book.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Cutting Black (Plot Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: Free Seattle (Adventure)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/19/2020 19:45:54

I liked the first chunk quite a bit, it gave a lot of info on Seattle. Some of them felt familiar, and I later found out that there was copypasta from a previous book...

However, the big setting dump also meant that the adventure itself only takes up about 33 pages. This review is going to be centered mainly around that, since I didn't see any glaring issues in the Seattle information.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the plots/structure of the runs. However, there were a few points I wanted to go over that people should be aware of:

TL;DR: The rewards contradict guidance given in the 6E CRB. There isn't a lot of latitude given to runners in how some of the more "epic" heists go. References to the Legwork section should've been given throughout the scenes.

Scene 0: With experienced players, you will almost certainly need debugging for the "on the run" option. The debugging itself doesn't really do much to assuage any player concerns, unless they catch onto the gm meta hint that things are OK and you're not actually screwing them over like all other clues would imply. I'm not sure if this section was actually needed? There doesn't need to be a big deal about meeting with a fixer. If a group has exigent circumstances (Outside of Seattle, laying low, etc), it's typically better to leave weaving in the adventure to the GM, rather than having some anonymous source that the party has no way of detecting tape a message to the outside of the door of a hiding space. And why would anyone go to the trouble? Based on the pay rates later on, it definitely doesn't seem like the PCs are high-tier, which is perfectly fine for an introductory adventure. However, a runner group that is new isn't going to be sought out in a whole different city- more likely, their fixer might be contacted by a Seattle fixer looking for unknown, out-of-town assets for a job (Which could be reasonable, considering the circumstances). Specifically knocking on the runners' door? Not really.

Scene 1: Nothing bad about it, other than that this should have been "Scene 0".

Scene 2: I always wonder if there's anyone who actually reads through all the paragraphs plunked into "Tell it to them Straight," I feel awkward talking for more than a minute without PC interaction. This is universal in all RPGs, so it's not a specific criticism of this one. However, this section is a bit better than usual. It's broken into paragraphs that could easily be separated into chunks of "mini-scenes," and reading 1-2 sentences at a time in between player actions is far more tolerable for me. The main issue is with the pay- it seemed intentionally low, to encourage players to negotiate a bit. However, even assuming that the PCs get 4 net hits on the negotiation, that's still only 3,200 nuyen each. According to the guidance in the CRB, something that's less than "a month's rent" (5,000 nuyen each) should be easy, which contradicts the CRB. This is OK if we assume the group has no rep yet (It is an intro adventure, and they do have the 7,500 total slush fund which probably amounts to 1,500/player), but not ideal. The predetermined results the adventure has for glitching the test are far more troubling. I'm not opposed to severe setbacks for glitches and critical glitches, but if someone gets an unlucky roll, and ends up with 500 nuyen each for a job? They'd almost make more money working at Stuffer Shack. Hell, they could rob a stuffer shack, sell all the snacks at a fraction of the price somewhere in the barrens, and probably make that much (Call it "community service"). No runner in their right mind would take a job that's that low- that's what you pay a contact to cause a distraction with some security grunts, or to track down some info on the streets. Maybe it might be a bonus for getting excess paydata on a minor job. The job is to sneak into an embassy and steal data. Even given that this is an intro adventure, if the GM/players read the setting description in the first half of the book, they'll know that Council Island is one of the most locked-down places, and its security posture has been growing. It doesn't fall under the CRB's definition of easily handled (Should be less than 5,000), and I suppose even though it's dangerous, it's probably not long or grueling (2-3 months rent, or 10,000-15,000). So that would put it around 5,000 - 10,000, which sounds about right for an intro adventure with a bit of risk, TBH. So, any runner in their right mind would walk away after glitching, even if it's only the 1,000 nuyen/person. Honestly, a lost job is probably right for a crit glitch in negotiations. However, it's not really a good idea to write in that sort of thing in a premade adventure- the point of those things is that the players go through the adventure. The "pushing the envelope" is fine- with a new group, doing short combat with low stakes in a realistic scenario isn't a bad idea to get folks used to the rules, and is a bit less railroady than the classic stuffer shack scenario (Discussion on the revamped stuffer shack scenario is best left for another day).

Scene 3: "Each runner can bring a two-handed weapon or two one-handed weapons, plus whatever can be carried on their person and in a backpack" You know that at least one runner is going to disassemble a couple of weapons and put them in a backpack. It should have been left at "fits on their person and in a backpack," specifying the number of weapons is too artificial. The level of detail on the security systems is good. The guards are a bit too light. Given the riots, 5 guards on duty in a skeleton crew is believable. However, the 30 minute delay in KE patrol response time seems unrealistic. If anything, the riots should mean they have more people on hand, since people likely got called into work to deal with it. Given the fact that the runners could shoot their way in and swim back to Seattle before the patrol arrives, the 2000-3200 pay seems about right. I feel like this would ingrain bad habits, though, since you shouldn't have things so light that shooting your way in and out (In a situation where you can't bring heavy weaponry/armor, no less) is realistic, especially for an embassy on Council Island. It's still too much risk for a 500-1000 nuyen pay. For an "easy mode", the pay and risk make sense, but I dislike the low difficulty. The extra pay (1,000 per paydata about summit attendees) should have been mentioned in the meet in scene 2, that would've assuaged my concerns about the low pay under normal circumstances. For pushing the envelope- barghests are fine, but I don't really think adding a sixth guard on the skeleton crew is going to make it that much harder, even with teamwork tests. The debugging section should be the response to armed shadowrunners in an embassy, regardless of noise level/explosives.

Scene 4: The starting paragraph of the Hooks is good. The pay given is below average, like the previous scene's pay is. I won't rehash the same points again, but the security for the parlor is stronger (8 yakuza guards and a mage), with a higher PR. So, the pay for this job should similarly be higher- except for the text explicitly does not give the players a chance to negotiate. The job itself also involves wetwork and some trickery, which lore-wise should pay more as well. And again, the 2,000 nuyen extra for each additional piece of info should be mentioned in the meet, as that assuages the low payout concern. I have no idea where the players will find info on summit attendees in this scenario, unless they decide to kidnap and interrogate the guy they're trying to frame. Players have done stranger things, but this is unlikely. The paydata on the host is separate from this, and have their own price tags.

It's not so much that I personally don't like the pay amounts, just that it contradicts the 6e CRB guidance on pay.

Scene 5: Well, the "what's up chummer" certainly escalated things quickly. As for the "tell it to them straight"- who the hell decides that the best meeting place to set up a job to steal a dragon egg is another dragon's club? Like, I get that they're not being specific about what's being stolen, but presumably Perianwyr keeps enough of an eye on other dragons' operations in Seattle to recognize representatives of the Sea Dragon. Most of the draconic community (And likely bits of the runner community) knows that the Sea Dragon steals eggs. Peri's got at least 9 logic, he can put 2 and 2 together if it later comes out that Urubia's lost an egg. I'm not saying that Peri's dumb enough to pick a fight, but he might tattle. Of course, if this is all setup to say that Perianwyr's now working for the Sea Dragon in a similar arrangement he had with Ghostwalker, all is forgiven, and that twist is delightfully evil considering his positive character development. But really, I don't think she could've picked a worse place besides Urubia's club, or maybe a leased Saeder-Krupp conference room. To be fair, though, if the Sea Dragon up and told Peri "if you spy on my meet I will eat you", I think that'd be sufficient. He'd be curious, but nobody's that curious. Honestly, there's nothing wrong about Underground 93 as the meet-up. I'm just not sure if all the implications of such a meet-up place have been addressed. At minimum, she pulled one over on Perianwyr (Not that hard, TBH), and now holds it as a "soft" blackmail- implicate him in the theft of Urubia's egg if he doesn't cooperate, or something like that. IDK, that's probably beyond the scope of a 30-page adventure. The pay here is again, below expectations (5,000 - 7,000), considering that the runners are stealing a dragon egg. However, given that they're not telling what the object of the theft is, this seems like reasonable pay for robbing a vault. I don't think the debugging thing is the right choice (bumping pay automatically to 7,500). It'd be better to give a bonus on the negotiation test.

Scene 6: Overall, this seems a bit too straightforward for theft of a dragon egg. I guess the main issue is that the theft's been micromanaged by Shan and Shun, down to the location where they cut a hole in the wall, using their tools. It kind of defeats a lot of the oomph in a heist when it's preplanned. Giving the location of the vault and maybe some rough maps of that area of the feral underground makes sense, but a lot of the fun of SR is in the planning. There's a limit to how much you can account for in a structured adventure, but putting in a map of the area and description of wall thickness, security measures, etc. would be more useful than detailing the plan for the players. There's no PR ratings given on the grunts- you don't really need PR ratings for adventure-specific things, especially drones found in the CRB, but it's nice in case you want to reuse the stats. The petrophage is not in the CRB, so it should definitely have a PR rating. I do like that they added in a threat not found in the CRB (It helps improve the "reusability" of the adventure), but I dislike that they didn't make it easy to reuse. You can guesstimate the PR rating, but it's not ideal.

Scene 7: In small quantities, I don't mind the "johnson vs johnson" trope, and there's been enough "normal" runs in this adventure so that this wouldn't feel cliche. It's also good that one of the johnsons is somewhat known to the PCs- sure, it's bad to ditch a Johnson or mess with their data, but if you're doing it for a Johnson who's been giving you steady work, it's not the worst call. The pay might be a little low considering the stipulations Miranda has, and for the risks inherent in breaking into a State Department building, but it's not unreasonable like the first run. IDK, maybe I've been overestimating the level of security of government buildings in 2080. The security feels right for this type of building, though. An HTR on standby for a building this important, with regular guards on the other floors. Not having guards on a top secret floor is the weirdest damn thing ever. I get not wanting to hire out, but then just use your company talent? (Seattle national guard, I guess?) Honestly, this almost sounds realistic for government. The security forces don't have the proper clearance for the floor that needs to be secured the most. Sounds about right... At least the security is allowed in if folks hit the panic button. Again, I do like the level of detail given to the different security systems.

Scene 8: I feel like most SR adventures end with a CYOA type of deal. It's not bad, but it's a common structure for them. Some of the stuff in the aftermath feels out of the blue- players weren't given a lot of the info during the adventure. Which is fine, often the less questions asked, the better. This also provides some hooks for follow-on runs, which is nice as well- you don't have to tie up every loose thread in an adventure. However, I think that there should've been a "secret list" somewhere for the attendees, that might've helped tie in some of the outcomes with the plot. (Nevermind, this is in the Legwork section in the back of the adventure... Probably should've been referenced during scense, though). "His dealings with prostitutes and novacoke force a very public and very messy divorce, and he seeks to rehabilitate his image and his life." That last bit is a bit too optimistic IMO- well, the image part is probably true. I like how Urubia destroys shit regardless of the choice the players make. Dragons gotta act like dragons, otherwise what's the point? "Taking Karma away from a player should not be done lightly." Uh, I'm going to assume they're referring to calculating total rewards (IE, subtracting 1-2 before giving it to players), since the alternative should not be done at all. I'm curious what would cause a player to collect proof that they killed the petrophage, the metaplanar monster guarding a dragon egg. Maybe for reagants, but who would wave that around in public? How many petrophages could there possibly be in Seattle? There's a dragon committing arson because of that theft, the +2 Rep isn't worth it...

Legwork: I like the breakdown for contact vs matrix. The details about different folks are also very interesting. "It’s right there in the name—it’s a dragon that likes to live in the sea" I mean, with 1 hit, that's fair...

Cast of Shadows: It's a different perspective looking at jackpointer commentary while knowing the "truth" from the legwork section.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Free Seattle (Adventure)
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Shattered Pattern
Publisher: FASA
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:15:00

A good adventure- with an interesting solution for GMs who wish to follow a set path without railroading! The hook may be weak for some groups, but that is easily tweaked.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Pattern
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GM Mastery: NPC Essentials
Publisher: RoleplayingTips.com
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:13:33

The layout's a bit confusing at first since it doesn't match up with the steps, but there is a ton of good info and inspiration in this. Well worth the price and more.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM Mastery: NPC Essentials
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Scars: An Earthdawn Novel
Publisher: FASA
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:12:28

Powerful story, more than just fluff. Gives us a complex character and interesting development. The climax was beautiful- Mountainshadow done right! I'd love to talk more, but that would be spoilery. Read and enjoy, it's well worth the price. Still struggling to get through my copy of Little Treasures since French is not my first language, or even my second...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scars: An Earthdawn Novel
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Shadowrun Legends: Worlds Without End
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:09:33

A sad ending, but a good story, is always bittersweet. I like the connections between ED and SR. I read the trilogy out of order, but this is still good. I like how Harlequin isn't a complete Mary Sue- I feel like Spector actually salvages the character.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun Legends: Worlds Without End
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Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:06:37

Lots of good info. There were some bold choices to alter the usual format of shadowtalk/jackpoint, which didn't necessarily pay off. QC on some of the stories could have been better, but others were very good. A decent source of inspiration that could have been much better with a bit of love and polish.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia
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Shadowrun: Mercurial
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:04:21

Absolutely killer, and surprisingly easy to adapt. I ended up running a "reverse" of the adventure with an Anarchy group, putting Bull and Johnny 99 as antagonists and players as agents of Kyle Morgan (It was a one-shot). There was definitely enough information in this book to support that kind of turnabout.

Hard to run nowadays since the twists are so well-known, but definitely a good read for anyone trying to build a good SR adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Mercurial
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Shadowrun Legends: Never Trust an Elf
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:02:15

Not really the best SR tale out there, but it gives a lot of good lore- some of which isn't addressed in the SR rules proper until much later in publication history. (Such as orks with human lifespans) Wish there was more followup on some of the plot threads, but that's early SR novels for you! Worth the price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun Legends: Never Trust an Elf
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Shadowrun: Chicago Chaos (Anarchy)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2019 19:00:21

Absolutely loved both the fluff and the new stuff for the Anarchy system, which can always use more love! The missions in this can be easily adapted for any edition of Shadowrun, and I appreciate the details about NPCs that help for players branching out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Chicago Chaos (Anarchy)
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Horrors
Publisher: FASA
by Allegra V. R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2019 21:15:13

The emphasis on storytelling in Earthdawn and Shadowrun, rather than pages of cookie-cutter monster stat blocks, make even the older books easy to adapt to modern systems.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Horrors
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