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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
by Adrian J. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/05/2014 08:38:13
As it had been a while, I took the opportunity to re-read Another Rainy Night (if you haven't done so, do it) first, to refresh my memory and set the stage for SASS. I think that SASS is an excellent continuation of the story and I'm quite looking forward to the next installment. I really enjoyed how the author has integrated the presence of magic with a sense of the unknown. Despite magic being a pervasive element with the Shadowrun universe, there is still a sense of unknown...something that is truly alien to most people. There were a couple of "logic leaps" that I felt could have been better detailed, but given the size constraints of the story, understood. Character development was solid (though not as strong as ANR) and the stage has been nicely set for the finale. Overall an excellent read and a great addition to the setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/05/2014 06:20:41
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/05/tabletop-review-shadowr-
un-missions-5a-02-critics-choice/

Feetal’s Gizz! Has it really been seven full months between Chasin’ the Wind and the next installment of this season’s Shadowrun Missions? It sure has, but worry not, for it has been worth the wait! As you might recall, this season of Shadowrun Missions is taking place in Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy-City. BUG CITY. That’s right, you’re smack dab in one of the creepiest locations in the Sixth World for the long haul chummers, so get strapped in and let your paranoia run wild because, when it doubt, it’s probably being possessed, manipulated or controlled by Insect Spirits.

Shadowrun Missions are by far my favorite line of adventures currently being published, and Critic’s Choice is a perfect example of way. The adventures are designed to be played in one or two sessions (generally a four hour block, which is perfect for tournaments at conventions). The format these adventures are laid out in are organized in such a fashion that even a neophyte GM can run one of these with little to no problem. Everything you need, from enemy stats to specific die rolls needed, are listed in each scene. Veterans GMs will also find ways to tweak the difficulty and possibly save the runners if they get in over their heads. I should also mention each Mission is (usually) in full colour, and with a price tag of only $5.95, you’re getting an incredible deal. Why Shadowrun fans don’t pick up each and every one of these whenever they are released is beyond me. You can play each one as a one shot, or you can string the set together as one drawn out campaign. Of course, with the gaps of time between adventures, you should probably wait until the season is complete before going that route.

There’s so much to love about Critic’s Choice. It introduces a fun cast of characters for your players to interact with – many of which will no doubt be showing up in later adventures this season. You have a rat shaman gang leader, an up and coming fixer, an ugly elven pit fighter, a kind hearted street doc who might actually be as benevolent as he seems, and a collection of lunatics who live, breathe and cosplay the vidtrid Neil the Orc Barbarian in overzealous fashion. It’ll be interesting to see which of these turns out to working for the Bugs (ALL OF THEM! ALL OF THEM I TELL YOU!).

The adventure is a pretty unique one as far as Shadowrun affairs go. First, you’re actually clearly wearing the white hat with this run. Your mission is to extract some documents from a long abandoned building so a doctor can claim it as his. Once it is, he can turn it into a new clinic which is closer to the containment zone and can thus help a lot of people in need, especially those living next to a Ghoul warren. There’s also a scene where you can optionally take down a gang who accosts and murders people to feed to ghouls. Yes, lots of ghoul references in this one. Of course, the mission isn’t a cakewalk. Once you get to the building in question, you’ll find it is currently being squatted in by a group of people who mean no harm and, aside from being obviously insane, are just trying to get by in one of the most horrible places on Earth. Is there a way the squatters and the doc can both get what they want/need from this situation? Definitely – as long as your team isn’t the type to shoot first and second. I absolutely loved that you can get through Critic’s Choice without a single shot being fired or blade having to be pulled. Although it’s not likely, this adventure can be 100% combat free. I’ve been playing Shadowrun since the first edition FASA days, and I honestly think this is the first adventure that allows for this. That’s pretty cool. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t planned combat scenes in Critic’s Choice – just that you can avoid them. Most of the combat is pretty straightforward though, and shouldn’t give the PCs much of a challenge. Don’t worry though, this is just the second adventure of the season after all. By the time the PCs are done, they and their players should feel good about themselves and the work they have done for Chicago. It’s rare you get a run that isn’t super murky ethics and morality-wise, but I’m sure down the road we’ll see that the clinic you helped will be implanted bug spirits or be a Technomancer abattoir or something. It’s the Sixth World after all.

Overall, I really loved Critic’s Choice. I thoroughly enjoyed that the setup and each of the eight scenes that comprised this adventure included a reference to a line or song title from the musical Chicago. I loved how unique this adventure was in terms of setup and follow through. I really felt this would make a wonderful first adventure for people to learn Shadowrun with, be they new to the system or gaming as a whole. The scenes are short, and each provides a good cut-off point if you can’t finish the piece in a single session. The dice roll needs are on the low end. Combat is short and sweet, and much of the adventure is talking rather than shooting. All of these things should really help a newcomer learn Shadowrun, Fifth Edition quite nicely. Shadowrun is a pretty mechanics heavy system in the first place, and some other adventures might overwhelm or intimidate a less experienced gamer. So out of everything available for 5e so far, Critic’s Choice is definitely the best option for getting your feet wet with the Sixth World. If you don’t have the core rulebook for 5e, that shouldn’t be a problem, as you can still learn the game via this, the free Quick Start Rules and many a person willing to teach you the ropes at your local brick and mortar store, via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
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Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Featuring Unity
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/02/2014 08:03:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/02/tabletop-review-valiant-
-universe-rpg-quick-start-rules-featuring-unity/

Although a lot of gamers got their start with Dungeons & Dragons, my first tabletop RPG was actually a different TSR game – Marvel Super Heroes. The FASERIP system was a lot of fun, very easy to learn (even in single digits of age) and I loved the random character generation process. The game still remains one of my favorites to this day. Another classic Super Hero RPG was Mayfair’s DC Heroes Role Playing Game. It had one of the best super hero character building systems ever and the mechanics were solid. For over thirty years, these two games have been the measuring stick with what I judge other super hero games, be they Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, Heroes Unlimited, later terrible incarnations of Marvel games I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, TMNT and other Strangeness, Villains and Vigilantes and more.

Now however, we have Valiant Universe RPG. I’ll be honest as much as I was DC and Marvel fans as a kid, the 90s brought me Valiant comics and it quickly became my favorite universe. Shadowman by Bob Hall and Steve Englehart. Rai by Bob Layton and David Michelinie. Harbinger by Jim Shooter. X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Quantum and Woody, and more! Valiant picked up the best writers and artists from comics and gave us the best cohesive universe I’d ever seen. Alas, it died off almost as quickly as it was born, for which I personally blame Acclaim Entertainment (Yes, the video game company. It’s a long story) and for more than a decade the characters of Valiant lay dormant save for those owned by Gold Key Studios. You can’t keep a good thing down though and about two years ago, Valiant came back with a vengeance – rebooting everything, but sticking to what made it work in the first place – collecting the best storytellers and artists in comics and delivering a universe full of continuity and characterization. I have pullbox subscriptions for every comic they put out and if you look at my list of comics I picked up in April you’d see it consist of 9 Valiant, 7 DC, 4 Marvel and 1 IDW. So as you can tell, I’ve been a Valiant fan since the dawn of its first incarnation, as well as a long time role-player, so Valiant Universe RPG was something I’ve been waiting a long time for.

Unlike most games, which only put out a single set of Quick Start Rules to entice buyers to pick up the real thing, Catalyst Game Labs is actually doing a set of SIX, which each one covering a different facet of the Valiant universe. This first QSR release covers a very simplified version of the rules and Unity. May through July will see a whopping FIVE QSR releases on the Harbinger Wars event that ran last year, each covering a different faction in that fight: Bloodshot, Generation Zero, The Harbinger Foundation, The Renegades and H.A.R.D. Corps. That’s a pretty interesting way to build hype for a brand new game and it will be interesting to see if it works or not. Besides this set of six PDFs, there will also be a physical Quick Start Rules set available at your local brick and mortar stores on Free RPG Day 2014. If that’s not enough the Core Rulebook for Valiant Universe RPG will be available digitally on July 5th and physically in August (probably later in real life because that’s how our industry rolls). I’m really impressed by CGL and Valiant’s game plan for this new RPG and I can’t deny out of all the new systems scheduled for 2014, this has been the one I’ve been most excited for (Sorry Pirates & Dragons).

Of course just because a game has a license with a large fandom behind it doesn’t mean the game is going to be a good one. For every Ghosts of Albion or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there is a Know Your Role or Street Fighter RPG that is pretty terrible. So where does Valiant Universe RPG fall? Well, it’s impossible to tell from a twenty-six page set of Quick Start Rules. These are a simplified bare bones version of the real thing after all. I will say that the game looks exceedingly promising. At first glance, the Cue System (the mechanics for Valiant Universe RPG) seems to be a mix of Savage Worlds (Yay!) and Cortex (Boo!).

It’s very interesting that unlike most games which have a designated DM/GM/Keeper/Storyteller/what have you, every player takes a turn at being the Lead Narrator. This is an unusual choice as most gaming groups have one or two people that are good or like to run the game while the others just want to play as characters. The upside to this is everyone gets a chance to run things and at no time will there ever be the threat of “GMs vs Players” which ruins so many games. It also means that the game is unique in that adventures are a group creation where everyone contributes to the storytelling instead of just being along for the ride. There are downsides though, like when a person who sucks at GM’ing is up for the Lead Narrator role. As well, it means that due to the “telephone” like nature of Lead Narration the adventure may turn out totally differently from how it was originally intended. This isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it does mean you won’t see people spend time crafting and honing their own homebrew adventures. I can’t even begin to imagine how published adventures will work with this style of GM’ing. This doesn’t put me off though. If anything, it has me all the more curious for the final version. As well, the text clearly states you can run Valiant Universe RPG with a single Lead Narrator like any other game, so if the new idea doesn’t pan out, go back to basics!

There are no rules for character creation in this set of Quick Start Rules, which is fine. I am curious if there will be any, or if it will be more like the Cortex Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game where you only play as established canon characters. In this set of QSRs, you get four playable PCs, which are the original members of Unity. You have Toyo Harada, Gilad Anni-Padda – the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak (YES!) and Livewire. It makes sense to start with a team based group as a solo character like Shadowman would be a poor choice for a QSR, while an awesome choice for a solo adventure. Choosing Unity also made some of the biggest names in Valiant playable right off the bat, so this was a great choice overall, even if my favorite current Valiant Comic (Archer & Armstrong) won’t have its characters show up in any of the planned QSR sets.

The adventure for this Unity set follows this first story arc of Unity almost to the letter. The team is gathered to takedown X-O Manowar, who has recently taken over Romania and given it back to the Visigoths. Russia is planning a nuclear strike as nothing else seems has even made Aric of Dacia flinch, but Harada knows that will be disastrous for the entire world. As such, he has gathered a powerful group of heroes to save the day. Of course, if you have read the comics, you know that things don’t run smoothly. I won’t spoil the adventure, but I will say it is a lot of fun and that it is one of the best conversions from comic to tabletop I’ve ever seen. Of course, this does not mean you’re on rails to follow the comic storyline exactly. There are some examples in the text of how wildly divergent the adventure can stray from the comics up. This was very well done, but I do admit I hope to see some original adventures for characters down the road. Just following a comic arc makes sense for a QSR set as it is something Valiant fans will already be familiar with and can follow without having to strain their creative muscles too much. It would be dull if every adventure was based on a previously written comic book though.

So let’s talk playing the game. Again, these are not the final rules for the game, but simplified QSR mechanics. Each character has five core stats: Might (Strength and Stamina), Intellect, Charisma, Action (Fighting ability) and Luck. Luck is a solid non mutable number for each character. For example, Ninjak has 9 while Harada has 3. The other four stats are assigned a die. A stat will either have a D4, D6, D8, D10 or D12 attached to it, with the higher die representing more potential power. When a character has to make a roll. The player rolls the die corresponding to that trait and a d12. The two results are added together. The Lead Narrator then makes an opposing roll with a d20. Whoever gets the high result wins. Yes, resolving dice rolls are that easy/simple. So for example, if Ninjak wants to kick through a locked door (he doesn’t have time to pick the lock), he would roll his Might die (d8) and a d12 and add the result together. Then the Lead Narrator would roll that d20. If the player wins the roll, the action goes exactly as planned. If the Lead Narrator wins…it does not. Now a LN winning the roll doesn’t mean failure – it simply means they get to decide what happens. So for example, if Ninjack gets a 12 and the Lead Narrator gets a 19, the LN could say Ninjak does indeed kick through the door, but that it leg goes right through it as the door was brittle and old and he has to spend his next turn pulling his leg out of the hole he just made. If a player decides to use a power for an action, they get to roll the die associated with that power, the stat die and the d12. They don’t get to add all three results together though. Instead, they drop the lowest die and add the two remaining results together before the LN makes the opposing role. So let’s look at that scenario again. This time it’s the Eternal Warrior trying to break down the door with a sword. He would get to roll his Might die (d10), his power die of Weapon Mastery (d12) and the regular d12 die. So that’s two d12s and a d10 and then he would drop the lowest of the three. The LN would then roll its d20 and see who wins. Looking at it though, GIliad has a better chance of getting through the door than Ninjak, doesn’t he?

There is one exception to the above scenario and that is where luck comes in. If a player rolls his dice and one comes up with his luck number, it is an automatic success. So if any of Giliad’s three dice came up showing a 10, the LN doesn’t even need to roll – the action is a success. There can also be modifiers to die rolls just as in any game, chosen at the Lead Narrator’s discretion. Combat between two characters is a straight up Action Die vs Action Die with Modifiers. I should point out that ranged combat, at least in this QSR set has a pretty big advantage over melee. It’ll be interesting to see how much that holds up in the core rules once they are released, but for right now, distance is king.

There are a few other areas to cover. Health is similar to Shadowrun or World of Darkness games in that characters have a set amount and as it goes down, they receive penalties to die rolls. Each character also has an armor pool which is deleted before Health starts to go. Plot Points are similar to GM intrusions from Numenera mixed with the Doom Pool from the Marvel Cortex game. So on and so forth. It’ll be interesting to see how the rules change with each Quick Start release and what the final version eventually looks like.

So overall, Valiant Universe RPG is looking like it is off to a great start. It’s definitely looking like a game long time tabletop gamers and newcomers can sit down and have fun playing. The rules are very easy to learn and are pretty instinctual once you start. I have no idea where CGL is going to take this game and how supplements, published adventures and character creation will work, but I’m very eager to find out. Who knows – maybe we’ll see a line of Valiant Universe RPG miniatures down the road. I’d love a Vincent Van Goat. Anyway, this Quick Start Rules set is free, so if you’re remotely interested in Valiant or tabletop RPGs, you should download this right away. Again, this is the first of many free samples Catalyst Game Labs will be giving out online, so you’re going to want to pick up the whole set for a better look at how Valiant Universe RPG is shaping up. I’ll be taking a look at each of the releases as they are made available, so join me back here every few weeks to see what’s new!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Featuring Unity
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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
by William M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/01/2014 19:13:14
I will start out with the negatives.

First, there is the missing rules information for personalized grips. I understand why the information is missing; it still is something that can be a problem for some games. But, it can be easily resolved.

The greatest negative... the length. This is a very good story, but it has underpinnings that suggest that as good as it is, it would have been far better if Patrick Goodman had been allowed to write it as a full-length novel. That is not to say it is not a worthwhile read; even as a novella, this work of fiction is well worth the money. I would even suggest it, and its predecessor, for those who are not Shadowrun players and have no interest in playing.

Okay, I think I've spent most of my negatives section praising this work.

The positives are the fact it is so well-written, and the fact it allows you to actually get to know the characters. Even the heartbreaks and triumphs. And this takes characters who were previously a tiny bit flat (I suspect they wouldn't have had any flatness if the prior work had been allowed to be longer) and gives them depth that serves them well. And you may even be surprised at the decisions they make.

Well, anyway, I can't say more without spoiling the story. Read it for yourself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/01/2014 10:57:09
A delightful ramble through the Chicago Containment Zone where there's always something to do even without the plethora of Johnsons seemingly lining up to hire the 'runners. There are places to visit and contacts to make, as well as nuyen to be made... and even the chance to be Good Samaritans along the way.

Most times, the 'runners get a job then others approach trying to hire them to do it differently. Not this time - they get one job and are then approached to do another job that'll work in tandem with the first. Not bad, one run, 2 paychecks!

There are plenty of contacts, useful contacts, to be made during this adventure: it's well worth keeping track of them (as player or referee). Some interesting locations that you might want to use again too.

Everything is very clearly laid out, making it very easy to run this adventure. It's broken down into discrete scenes and each scene has information to give to the 'runners, background for you, all the game mechanics needed to resolve likely situations and sections called 'Pushing the Envelope' (extra challenges if required) and 'Debugging' (for use when the 'runners do the unexpected). A 'Legwork' section at the end gives you loads of things that the characters can find out, should they take the trouble to do some research or go rumour-hunting. There is also full details on everyone they'll meet during the adventure to supplement the summary information in the body of the adventure.

There are no maps or plans, but the adventure doesn't really need them. There's plenty of descriptive material and if/when a brawl breaks out it is likely to be in close quarters and all you'll really need to know is how people are arrayed with respect to each other.

Overall, a fun adventure that gives the feel of poking around the CZ well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2014 22:32:16
Originally posted on www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Story- Sail Away, Sweet Sister
Author- Patrick Goodman
TL;DR- Great Shadowrun story, but not a great introduction to Shadowrun story. 83%

Basics- Thomas McCallister is back! This is a direct sequel to "Another Rainy Night". In this story, a picture of Lenore, Thomas' vampiric sister, is found as she is running across the fractured America of Shadowrun. Can Thomas save his sister before she falls to the monster that lives insider her? Who else is manipulating things behind the scenes....

Story-The story is pretty good. It's an ensemble cast with the story being told from the sister, Thomas, his friends, and several other's points of view. Each character has a different, well defined view of things, and, that variety makes the story come off the page. Some of the story elements are kind of brushed over, but in a short fiction, that is a necessary evil. 4/5

Characters- The characters are also well defined. Each one has their own goals and motivations, and that comes through in the story. I felt the characters were real, not one dimensional caricatures. You won't get all the pieces as this is part of a trilogy, but where there were gaps, I felt that was mysteries for later, not poor writing. 4.5/5

Setting-Here things are interesting. If you know Shadowrun, the story is an good story in the Shadowrun World. Lots of locations and idea live and breathe as you know they should. However, if you don't know Shadowrun, you will be completely lost. Terms are thrown around that your average read off the street won't know. A little bit of introduction to the more Shadowrun-esque element of the story would make things a bit better for all the readers out there. 4/5

Summary-This is a good short story. It's pretty long for the price you pay as it's over 30 pages. AND, you get some Shadowrun 5e/4a stats for your games. That right there is worth the price alone for how starved for Shadowrun content I and most of the community are. I haven't read "Another Rainy Night", but if the same writer wrote that one as well, I feel that I would be in good hands for that one. Also, as soon as the sequel to this story comes out, I plan to buy it. I like how this story turned out and I can't wait for more! 83%

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/28/2014 03:55:37
I liked this continuation of the story, and it does leave me anxious to see a third installment. The character development is excellent, and the enhanced fiction part means that you get stats for the characters in both SR4A and SR5 formats, as well as having some weapons and equipment stated out. You do not need to have read Storm Front to really understand what's going on with the HMHVV, as it's fairly evident in the story. You will need to read Another Stormy Night first though, as the characters and plots continue from that.

My only complaint was that the customized grip weapon mod does not have a price on it; the author stated that he was expecting it to be listed in Run & Gun, which left out many items that its SR4A predecessor (Arsenal) had (such as the vibro blades, which happily are fully listed in this enhanced fiction). While perhaps not unique in vampire stories, I did enjoy the sister's brief inner swinging between her original self and her new existence (which she dubbed "The Monster"). Unlike the other review, I do not feel this is indicative of any swing towards a World of Darkness style morality, as the other vampires we have seen in the two stories so far have appeared to fully embrace their natures with no inner turmoil regarding an inner beast. Hopefully this remain true.

With the ending opening the way for another in the series, I look forward to the next in the series. I look forward to reading about the main characters again, and am even eager to see what the response will be from their primary adversaries.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Shadowrun: The Assassin's Primer
by Nick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/28/2014 00:59:01
It's not bad, but way too much fluff for the actual content present. Nicely laid out, interesting and all, but it feels like they came up with an idea for a Jackpoint post and failed to really flesh out any rules to go with it.

Sure there's 5 new qualities and a rifle in the side bar, but that's pretty much it. Grab it if you enjoy reading the stories and can skip buying a coffee.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Assassin's Primer
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Shadowrun: Gun H(e)aven 3
by Nick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/28/2014 00:50:05
A pretty good book and well worth the price, it is simply a collection of weapons for both 5th edition and 4th Anniversary edition.

From the 4th ed point of view its nice, it expands on the earlier Gun H(e)aven books with some modern (and some not so modern) inclusions.

From the 5th ed point of view, specifically the use of accuracy in weapons it has a couple of questionable stat lines. There are a few weapons that are oddly high or low in accuracy when compared to others in their category.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Gun H(e)aven 3
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Shadowrun: Run & Gun
by Nick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/28/2014 00:30:20
Combat chainsaws, laser weapons, armoured ball gowns, and military grade heavy armour; what more could you want to expand your runners armoury?

Run and Gun provides players and GM's with a great variety of weapons and armour, along with expanded rules covering martial arts, explosives, hazardous environments and enough called shots to make you cringe. Well worth the investment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Run & Gun
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Shadowrun: Run & Gun
by Jack C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2014 12:46:52
I have always loved Shadowrun from the day I got my hands on first edition through the disappointment of fourth edition (deckers are hackers, but so are riggers??!!??). Through it all I have stuck with the game. Gave the rule changes a try. Some I loved (initiation) some not so much (still miss my combat pool). I have to say I think Shadowrun 5th edition is a great progression of the title. When SR5 was released I was thrilled, deckers were back, the matrix made more sense, limits are good things, but I missed some of my favorite weapons. I couldn't wait for this expansion to be released. I wanted my form fitting body armor and my concealable quick draw holster back. Run and Gun does not disappoint.

More than expanded combat gear (which is expansive) it is also rules that I felt the core were missing (the burst fire damage options for instance). It also expanded many of the skills with maneuvers and advanced rules. The martial arts section is exhaustive. The maneuvers make the game more cinematic and seem well balanced without destroying balance.

This is a MASSIVE book and I feel that my money was well spent. I am enjoying the fiction as well as the setting information. (Space combat... hmm-mm think I might have to get my poor players into orbit). At this point I am very excited to see what comes next, and if it is on par with what we have gotten so far in the core rules and this expansion, then I know it will be great.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2014 06:21:38
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/25/book-review-sail-away-s-
weet-sister-shadowrun/

Sail Away, Sweet Sister is the latest piece of “enhanced fiction” for Shadowrun. Enhanced Fiction simply means that at the end of the short story you get stats for the characters you just read about and maybe a few brief bits of mechanics. Sail Away, Sweet Sister is actually a direct sequel to a previous piece of enhanced fiction, Another Rainy Night, which was released a little over two years ago. That’s a long stretch between stories that are only two dozen pages in length, so I did find I had to re-read Another Rainy Night to remind myself of everything that happened in the previous tale. It’s worth noting that Sail Away, Sweet Sister can be read as a standalone, but it works FAR better if you read them both back to back. Otherwise you’ll miss some details and nuances that only carry over if you are familiar with both tales. The story is written in such a way that assumes you are familiar with Another Rainy Night which may cause a little bit of confusion in those that pick this up first. You’ll see reference to previous events and players that aren’t explained at all here, but were in Another Rainy Night, so just a head’s up there. Unfortunately, Another Rainy Night still has the $4.99 price tag attached to it. I was happy to see that CGL read my review of Another Rainy Night, because I said the sweet spot for a short piece of fiction like this would be $1.99. Lo and behold, that’s the price tag on Sail Away, Sweet Sister. Now if only they could go back and reduce the price on Another Rainy Night, everything would be awesome.

Sail Away, Sweet Sister also plays off another long untouched Shadowrun plot thread, this time from Storm Front, which closed out Shadowrun, Fourth Edition in April of 2013. In this case, we finally get to hear more about how vampires, ghouls and other “undead” are becoming more photosensitive while also suffering from stronger urges and hunger pains. Like Another Rainy Night, I’m glad to see someone over at CGL finally doing something with these dangling plot threads left over from 4e, but unless you’ve read both Another Rainy Night and Storm Front, you probably had no idea about the changes in the HMHVV community, both physically and socially. So for people to Shadowrun Fifth Edition, you’re probably going to feel out of the loop with this story, especially since it happens smack dab during Fourth Edition dates-wise. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just that you’re getting a story that is a few years (in-game and real life) behind the current meta-plot currently featured in Shadowrun.

When we last left Dr. Thomas McAllister and Knight Errant copy Lydia Bowen, they had finally put an end to the Mealtime Killer, a notorious serial killer who had killed roughly two dozen people before it was finally put down. In Sail Away, Sweet Sister, we learn that much like Doink the Clown, there is more than one MTK, perhaps many more. While the first MTK was someone obsessed with Thomas McAllister, the revelation of who the second is hits far closer to home with our main character as it is his sister. We also learn more about the Fear the Dark organization, which appears to be either a vampiric terrorist organization or a group of vampire traditionalists who want a return to the pre-Twilight version of vampires who are the natural predators of meta-humanity, which fears and loathes them. Hey, maybe it’s both! We don’t really get enough details on Fear the Dark, which heavily implies this will be continues in either another short story, supplement or sourcebook. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another two years to get the next part.

We get a lot of new characters with Sail Away, Sweet Sister. There is the enigmatic Minotaur, Jericho and the dwarven vampire Seamus, which really makes me think Patrick Goodman (author of the story) is a big wrestling fan as there seems to be a lot of subtle nods to it in his stories (hence the earlier Doink reference). I liked both characters, especially Seamus as he is a good reminder that not all Sixth World vampires are turning into second rate Vampire: The Masquerade wanna-bes. I also liked his fire elemental sidekick. I have a soft spot for friendly fire elementals as one of my own characters from back in the day had one. You’ll also meet Thomas’ ex-wife and of course, his sister Lenore. The cast is really well done in this book and even characters who only show up for a cup of coffee, like the two Lone Star agents, have very fleshed out personalities. There’s more character development in these twenty-four pages than you see in some gaming-licensed novels, which is impressive.

That’s not to say that the story is flawless. I felt it was a little too paint by numbers in that I’ve read several vampires stories with the same basic plot and resolution. The only difference here was that it involved a Shadowrun setting. I had déjà vu for much of the story, knowing exactly how it was going to go down long before I reached the actual pages confirming what I already suspected. The ending also really falls apart for me as it got really cheesy and flew in the face of the character development we’ve seen in not just this story but Another Rainy Night as well. It wasn’t hackneyed, but it was paint by numbers. I also really didn’t like that the story seems to be setting up Sixth World vampires for becoming VERY White Wolfish, complete with a Beast (or Monster as it is referred to here) that can control a vampire’s action when hurt or hungry. I’m really hoping this was a one-time case of schizophrenia (or some other mental derangement equivalent) brought on by being a vampire rather than have it turn out HMHVV is going to cause sufferers to have a more bestial second personality (or god forbid demon or extraplanar entity possession) as that’s not only stupid, but it takes away a lot of the uniqueness of Shadowrun “undead.” If I want angsty vampires fighting themselves over the eventual erosion of their humanity, I have V:TM or V:TR for that…not to mention that old Shadowrun/cyberware guide for V:TM that was published back in the mid 90s. So overall, I’d say I’m happy we got a continuation of Another Rainy Night but that Sail Away, Sweet Sister is nowhere as good or original a read. I’m hoping this was just ring rust after being away from the characters for so long and that the third installment in the series (if there is one) will be back up to the same level of quality we had in Another Rainy Night.

I should end this review by bringing up the “enhanced fiction” part. You get stat blocks for Thomas, Lydia, Lenore, Karla and Colonel Anne Ravenhurst. You’re also getting Fourth AND Fifth Edition stat blocks for each of the aforementioned characters. The 4e stats for Lydia and Thomas are ripped straight from Another Rainy Night, which is a good thing as it shows continuity. If the stats blocks were wildly different, I’d have to wonder what was up. I’m really glad to see stats for the two latest editions of Shadowrun as is helps ease edition wars and lets fans of each game use the characters without having to do any conversion. We also get two new SR5 positive Qualities, a few new weapons and a page of mechanics on drug called Renfield and how it affects those who take it. All in all, there is something for Shadowrun fans who like the fiction and/or the mechanics, so everyone who picks this up should find something to enjoy here.

So if you’re still with me, here’s what you need to know. Is Sail Away, Sweet Sister as good as Another Rainy Night? No. Should you still pick it up? Absolutely. While the story isn’t as good, it is still a fun read and even with the flaws I talked about earlier, you’ll end the tale wanting to know what happens next. That’s a good sign. It’s also a LOT cheaper than Another Rainy Night. The mechanics are well thought out and if that’s all you want from one of these releases, Sail Away, Sweet Sister is definitely the better choice, although Another Rainy Night DOES have some neat vampire hunting ammo. While not great literature by any means, Sail Away, Sweet Sister is entertaining and gives Sixth World fans the continuation of the story they have been waiting over two years for. The price point is perfect too, as even if you don’t like the story, it will only set you back two bucks. Again, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another two years for another installment of the continuing adventures of Thomas McAllister or a year for another slight update on the changes to HMHVV sufferers in the Sixth World.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares
by Peter H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2014 09:14:56
This short piece gives an overview of the electronic drugs of the Sixth World with a very brief set of rules for long term drug use and the consequences.
While the informational part is nicely written - from the perspective of an ex-and-now-again-addict - the rules are sparse and not really that much.
In conclusion: Good background info, not much game value. Surely nice to flesh out a part of the Sixth World but not necessary to keep running.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares
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Shadowrun: Run & Gun
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/23/2014 22:18:27
Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Run & Gun

Originally posted on www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product- Run & Gun
System-Shadowrun 5e
Producer- Catalyst
Price- PDF $25
TL;DR- What fans have been dying for! 93%

Basics- Time for the first hardcover expansion for Shadowrun 5e. This book focuses on physical combat. It starts off covering several new weapons ranging from swords to laser guns. Next, the book presents new armor and clothing options. From here, Run & Gun begins to focus on combat heavily starting with small squad tactics and new teamwork combat maneuvers. After team combat, the book spotlights called shot locations, special attacks with different ammo types, and more combat options. Following general combat, the book introduces martial arts with new combat maneuvers specific to each art. The last two sections of the book focus on environment hazards and demolition.

Fluff or Story- This book is full of stories. Catalyst takes great care to build story in across all the levels of the book. Each section of the book is introduced with a story building the world of Shadowrun. Every weapon is treated with some banter between different characters as they review the items as if they were talking about items in an internet forum. Even major rule sections get snark like summoning fire elementals underwater (spoiler-it's a bad idea!). Every inch of the book builds 2075 America into a living, breathing world. 5/5

Crunch or Mechanics- This book is also full of mechanics. The book introduces armor pieces, new armor/weapon types, martial arts forms, rules for all sorts of things from casting spells in a space suit to explosive decompression underwater. Even better, the book emphasizes and re-presents small rule sections that players and GMs may have forgotten. I really enjoyed quick rule summaries of these important, minor rules in sidebars. Building on this, the book provides examples of how to do the math that makes the game work. And as I said before, the book has lots of fun with its own rules and seriousness. A perfect example is explosive decompression. You fail a little, and it's bad. You fail a lot, and it's really bad. You completely screw-up, and you summon a kraken and die (most likely). It's an excellent way to meld rules, the world, and theme. 5/5

Execution- I'm reviewing a digital copy. What I saw, I liked. The text is nicely divided so you don't have solid pages of block text. The whitespace, side bars, tables, and pictures makes this a pleasure to read. The book has lots of pictures, but could use a bit more. In Gun H(e)aven 3, each gun got its own picture. This book doesn't have the space for that, but I think more pictures of the items would have helped me with my mental pictures of the game. Also, this is the first printing/release of the book, so there are a few errors that are being compiled to help with future releases of the book. Honestly, it's a fun read, but I felt like I wanted more to see and a bit fewer errors. The faults are by no grind them to a halt, but they are noticeable as you dig deeper into the book and system. 4/5

Summary- This isn't the book I thought it would be. That is not a bad thing, but I don't know if this was what I thought I was going to get. But, I am happy with the end product. I feel like I've learned a bit more about the world of Shadowrun. I love the new abilities that were carried over from forth edition or created for fifth. The last two section of the book are not as useful if you just play in the urban sprawls and want to gun down any go-gangers you see, but if you ever need to blow up a space station, there are well-done rules that will help you and your GM carry out whatever pyromaniac dreams you may have. Yes, plan B can be twice as much explosive as plan A. The Shadowrun community has been dying for some new Shadowrun 5e content, and this product delivers. While this product has a few flaws, if this is the quality of the next books, then I will happily buy each and every one. 93%

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Run & Gun
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Shadowrun: Run & Gun
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/16/2014 06:32:12
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/16/tabletop-review-shadowr-
un-run-gun/

Run & Gun is our second major Shadowrun release of 2014, with the first being the awesome Digital Tools Box. Usually Shadowrun has several small PDF releases a month, but Catalyst Game Labs has really cut back on that with the release of Shadowrun, Fifth Edition. For those that miss all those little one to two dozen page PDF stat block collections like Gun H(e)aven 3, Parazoology 2, Used Car Lot and others like them, you’ll be happy to know that a huge chunk of Run & Gun reads and feels like an omnibus of those pieces. There are roughly seventy pages of new armor and weapons in this this sourcebook! That should keep you busy well… until Sixth Edition rears its ugly head. Seriously, this book is a one stop shop for things to murder (or be murdered) with. Best of all those thirty page stat blocks tend to cost $7.95 EACH. So for Run & Gun, you’re getting the equivalent of a little more than two of those supplements (which would run you $16), but you’re also getting another 148 pages of content as well. Hopefully this knowledge upfront helps ease the sticker price of this sourcebook. I know my first instinct was, “THIRTY DOLLARS FOR THIS? WHAT THE HECK???” Once the shock wears off however, you can see that you’re getting a much better deal cost-wise with Run & Gun than with all those little (overpriced?) PDF supplements. So for some of you, the lack of prolific releases for Shadowrun 5e will be made up by the sheer value of this weighty tome.

Of course, there is so much more to Run & Gun than exotic items like space armor, harpoon guns and monofilament garrotes. The format of Run & Gun follows the usual Shadowrun motif we have come to expect from CGL. You get short pieces of fiction interspersed with metaplot told from the point of view of JackPoint (a Shadowrun Matrix group for those of you who are new to the game with 5e) and a bunch of mechanics. It’s worth noting that unlike a lot of Shadowrun books, Run & Gun breaks from the Jackpoint POV to straight rules and back with little or no warning. That might make the book seem like a chaotic mess at first as you’ll wonder why the speaker du jour suddenly started talking in mechanics, but you’ll get used to it. Perhaps my biggest complaint about the book is this constant narrative style shift. It could have been a lot more seamless. While long time Sixth World fans are going to find the constant flipping back and forth weird but navigable, newcomers will be confused more often than not. Considering this is the first sourcebook for a new edition, Run & Gun should have been more newcomer friendly than this. Still, the book is very easy to navigate, ESPECIALLY if you get the PDF version so you can quickly turn to bookmarks and the like. Due to the twenty dollar difference and the power of CTRL+F, I’d definitely say the electronic version of Run & Gun will be a lot easier to use in your Shadowrun, Fifth Edition games. It’ll be easier on your wallet and take up less space/weight to boot!

The first third of Run & Gun are the weapons and armor stats blocks mentioned earlier. This is probably the section that will get the most use by players and GMs alike. After all, if you want to make an arctic saboteur, you’ll want the Ares Polar Sneak or Coldsuit. (Actually the art for Ares Arctic Survival Suit is a direct rip-off/homage to the Snow Serpents from G.I. Joe. I’m not sure if that is intentional or not, but it is awesome). If you want to relieve Games Workshop’s Chainsaw Warrior board game, you can do it in style with an Ash Arms Combat Chainsaw. So on and so forth. There is something for everyone in these two areas. Now that doesn’t mean ANYONE should buy a full sourcebook if all they want is a single weapon or piece of armor from it. A GM however, can really get use out of Run & Gun if only by throwing new weapons and armor at the PCs. Tired of the same old mooks and grunts? >Spiffy them up with a new machine pistol or give that gang some bike racing armor. This is especially good if you have players that have all the items in the core rulebook memorized and love to rules-laywer.

The other two thirds of Run & Gun are all new tactics and options that can be done during combat. It’s always great to see some new options in combat, but Run & Gun gives you an incredible amount. So many that there is no way even the most anal retentive player is going to memorize all, or even HALF of the options in this book. As such, even veteran players may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and eventually a group is going to be split on what they want to allow and what they won’t. In a worst case scenario a bad group will want to use all of these and pressure a player into feeling like they MUST purchase Run & Gun. A good group will realize this is not a mandatory Player’s Handbook 2 set of canon rules ala what you see in D&D 3.0 or Pathfinder. If you think forty+ different Martial Arts (Yet the options are still missing Savate, Sumo, Sambo, and a ton of others) is too much for everyone, trim it back to what is workable for your group. The key thing to remember with Run & Gun is that the book is more New World of Darkness where you have a buffet you can pick and choose from than Classic World of Darkness where the books are written in a way where everything is canon and woe to you that can’t afford the latest release or who lack a set on index cards cross referencing everything. Yes the sheer amount of options are INSANE, but remember the focus should never be rules and mechanics first. It’s fun first, so if any of these optional rules don’t work for you or some players don’t have access to them, DON’T USE THEM! It’s that simple.

Our first section in this area is entitled “Sixth World Combat Tactics.” You get an overview of the basic tactics players and their characters know after spending a little bit of time in the Sixth World. “Geek the Mage First” and “kill the Decker second” sort of things. It also talks about the importance of team tactics similar to what you would see in a video game ala X-Com or Shining Force. There’s some really good commentary about how to work as a team and make sure everyone has a specific function or role when drek hits the fan. I’m actually surprised this piece wasn’t in the core rulebook because it’s advice Shadowrun players of all experience levels should read. This section also gives you eleven combat maneuvers which allow two or more characters to tactical options which will give them slight bonuses in specific situations. Case in point, you have a four player team that wants to attempt the “diamond maneuver.” This characters in the shape of a diamond moving in the same direction, thus giving them 360 degrees of sight. If you get four successes on this team attempt, all members doing the diamond maneuver get a +1 bonus to surprise/ambush checks and +2 to their Initiative rolls. This is nice. You get a small, non-game breaking reward for actually performing and moving as a team. Although there are only eleven of these options, an enterprising or creative GM can easily think of more. This section then ends with odd little tools like pain grenades (suck it invisibility spells!) and battering rams.

“KIllshots and More” is where things really start to get intense. You get six different OPTIONS for combat. These range from no action phase limits for simple actions to armor piercing options. My personal favorite is the alternative initiative where characters get rewarded for extremely high rolls and their quickness. Instead of getting one action per round, each player rolls their initiative and then goes in the usual highest to lowest order. Then everyone subtracts 10 from their roll. If they have a roll above 0, they get to go again. Repeat until everyone is down to 0 initiative and start again. I know I already made a World of Darkness comparison to this already, but in many ways this initiative option, gives extremely quick players something akin to Vampire: The Masquerade‘s celerity and I like that. Previously a high initiative “just” let you go first. Now you might be able to go first and get a couple extra attacks in to boot. This option also really lets mages get more out of slow and haste style spells. Of course, just because *I* like it doesn’t mean *you* have to. These are all optional rules; I can’t stress that enough. More options are always welcome while more forced canon rules appearing outside the core rulebook are rarely welcome.

This section continues with even more new combat options a character can take when his or her turn comes up. “More Called Shots” gives you twelve attacks that are more about style or positioning instead of damage. “Location, Location, Location” lets you take aim at sixteen different body parts (Yes, including genitals). “Ammo Whammy” gives you special actions to take with uncommon round types. For example, you can try to aim your Toxic round into a part of the body that will absorb the poison faster. You can’t obviously use an EX-Explosive round for an action designed only for a tracker however.

From there we get to one of the low points in the book. “More Actions” gives you over forty NON-optional actions. These are canon and are now part of the permanent action options so no doubt you’ll see them pop up in adventure with only a reference to Run & Gun, meaning you will have light pressure to buy this book to properly understand the published piece. That’s not cool, and although 4e was REALLY guilty of this, I was hoping 5e wouldn’t start off with it right away. Why these half dozen pages weren’t in the core rulebook for 5e is beyond me. They either should have made this a separate addendum, put them in the core rulebook or not done them. Most of these are common bits to begin with, so it’s more than a little inexcusable to have them in Run & Gun.

After that you have five new ways to spend Edge, seven new positive Qualities and one negative one. Then it’s the plethora of martial arts options I mentioned previously in the review. Besides all the martial art styles I mentioned, you also have techniques, which are the equivalent of called shots for martial artists. All of this is great if you are a physical adept, but these fifteen pages might have been better off as their own separate PDF so that more detail could have been added. As it stands, it’s a lot of options, but none of them have enough depth or detail. Basically this was a great idea on paper, but not enough follow through.

Can you believe there is STILL MORE CONTENT to talk about? At this point we’re only 145 pages into the 218 page PDF. The last third of the book is pretty much two chapters, “Staying Alive” and “Blow Up Good.” “Staying Alive” talks about real world hazards characters can face. After all, it’s not just bullets, dragons and magic that will kill you in the Sixth World. Here you are given mechanics for dealing with extreme heat, cold, radiation, pollution and more. Each of these topics only gets between one and three pages of content, but Space Combat gets about seven. How does magic work in space? How do laser or bullets? What happens if your character specialized in flame magic and he’s out in a vacuum? What happens when your suit starts to leak or the hull of your craft is breached? All of these are covered here. This is great stuff, especially with the earlier space suit bits in the armor section towards the front of the book. There are also two positive and three negative qualities in this section for characters to take as well.

The last real chapter in the book is “Blow up Good.” After that, it’s some short fiction and metric ton of tables. “Blow Up Good,” as you might have surmised, is all about explosives and/or things that explode. This is a pretty detailed chapter covering various types of explosives, different detonators, accessories, rules for cutting charges and even how to blow things up via your rigger’s drone. This is really well done for people that are interesting in sabotage or whose characters go around saying, “And so he says to me, he says, ‘You want to be a baaaaad guy?!’ and I say, ‘Yeah, baby! I want to be bad!’ I says, ‘Surf’s up, Space Ponies! I’m making gravy without the lumps!’ Ah ha ha ha ha haaaaa! ” Oh god. Now I want to make THE EVIL MIDNIGHT TROLL STREET SAM WHAT BOMBS AT MIDNIGHT. If however this isn’t your cup of tea, that’s thirty pages you can just skip over. “Bad is good, baby! Down with government!”

Overall, Run & Gun is well done, but it feels like a hodge podge of small PDFS supplements thrown together until they had enough of a page count to sell it as a physical release. This means that most gamers will only use a portion of the book and excise the rest from their Shadowrun, Fifth Edition campaign. Although it’s a lot cheaper to get the weapons, armor, tactics, actions, martial arts, explosives and environmental hazards as one big bundle rather than as seven or eight supplemental PDFs, the pieces in the book aren’t for everyone. A Physical Adept fan will enjoy the martial arts and action bits but not have a lot of use for the rest. Street Samurari’s will make great use out of the weapons and armor. Mages and Decker players don’t have a lot of use for this book at all. So the amount of use you’ll get out of Run & Gun really depends on what type of character you play and how much of a Shadowrun completionist you are. Remember, those supplemental PDFs tend to run eight bucks a pop, so purchased separately, the wildly divergent sections of this book would cost you between $56-$64 bucks. Instead you’re getting them bundled for $29.99. That’s a great deal price wise. However, if all you wanted were the weapons and armor, you’re stuck paying twice as much as you would have if you could buy each section separately. So the value for Run & Gun will vary greatly depending on your play style and how much of a Sixth World junkie you are.

Can I recommend Run & Gun? Most definitely! It’s not for everyone and the very different topics at hand make the sourcebook feel like more like a Frankenstein’s Monster type of deal rather than a cohesive collection, but the content is all quality stuff. In the end, no one gamer is going to make use of every aspect of this book, but there will be at least one section you’ll really enjoy – if not more. I’d definitely suggest going electronic over physical and remind gamers that if you look at Run & Gun as a bundle instead of sourcebook, the price tag on this thing looks a lot better. Whether or not it’s worth the full thirty dollars is really going to be up to each of you reading this and if you like the wide range of content we’ve looked at today.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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