Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/09/21/tabletop-review-shadowrun-missions-romero-juliette/
If you’ve been reading my reviews of various Shadowrunproducts for a while, then you know I’m a huge fan of the Shadowrun Missions series. These adventures are exceptionally cheap, costing less than a comic book, but are of extremely high quality. With full color artwork, comprehensive instructions to help even the most inexperienced Gamesmaster run the adventure, and great storylines, Shadowrun Missions adventures are the best deal in gaming today.
…then there’s Romero & Juliette. This thing is almost the antithesis of Shadowrun Missions. While it’s not the worst product for Shadowrun CGL has put out this year (that would be Damage Control), it is the worst Shadowrun Missions release I’ve ever encountered. I’m honestly sitting here writing this, shaking my head, unable to figure out how this got released in this condition.
Let’s start with the editing job. Yes, I know CGL has been slacking in the editing department this year, but Romero and Juliette is a copy editor’s nightmare. If this is the condition it was released in, I’d hate to see earlier drafts. Typos and grammatical errors litter this piece from beginning to end. Usually it’s just simple little mistakes like, “As the runners leave the meeting with Nazaire, they witness as pedestrian being gunned down in a gangland-style hit.” They add up quickly though and you’ll be noticing sentences with MULTIPLE errors in them like, “Either this guy is good enough to give out is real name without having to worry anout it, or he’s a rank amateur.” This is the sloppiest I’ve ever seen CGL and it’s a damn shame.
Now let’s talk the adventure itself. Romero & Juliette is meant to be a direct continuation of nearly three year old Shadowrun Mission from 2012 – Humanitarian Aid. There’s a couple problems here though. Humanitarian Aid is not freely available to the general public. Try and find it on DrivethruRPG.com or RPGNow.com. You won’t. Try looking for it on the official Shadowrun website. You won’t. Do a Google search and you’ll find only vague references to this nebulous adventure. Why is it harder to find than some of the items in Dunkelzahn’s will? It was a convention exclusive. Yes, they actually released an adventure to the general public that is a direct sequel to a convention exclusive and the adventure strongly encourages the GM to have read through Humanitarian Aid to boot. This is a decision that is so incredibly boneheaded, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s like common sense just dissipated here. How can you make a direct sequel to something very few people will be able to find and even less have directly experienced? To make things even worse for this adventure, let’s take a look at last year’s Shadowrun Mission entitled On a Silver Platter. This Mission was a direct sequel to yet another 2010 convention exclusive entitled Copycat Killer. Yet On a Silver Platter included said convention exclusive for free, and it was a far superior adventure to boot. So not only does Romero & Juliette ignore last year’s precedent for a similar situation, but the team behind it seems to have forgotten Humanitarian Aid was a convention exclusive. I have no words other than this is yet another example of how Romero & Juliette is not only the exact opposite of everything a Shadowrun Mission should be, but is the first real black mark on what has otherwise been an amazing season of adventures. If you’re going to do something like this, make sure the first “chapter” in the adventure path is available SOMEHOW, be it as a bonus, an add-on, or just sold seperately. The idea is to draw the audience in for more, not frustrate them when they can’t get the full picture.
Then there’s the plot. Romero & Juliette is meant to be a Halloween themed adventure. So much potential here with that theme. What do they give us instead? Zombies. Boring, overdone, uninspired zombies. Look, here’s the thing. Unless you are playing All Flesh Must be Eaten, Call of Cthulhu, or Ravenloft where all of your characters are first or second level, zombies really don’t work in a tabletop roleplaying game. They especially don’t work in the Sixth World. Seriously? Zombies in SHADOWRUN? Where half the player characters are cyborgs? Where dragons walk down the street with impunity? Where vampires and ghouls are not uncommon sights and there is even a large scale effort to let the undead be treated as equals with the rest of metahumanity? How can even the most inexperienced runner be phased by a zombie? Hell, even a mundane resident of the Sixth World should be nonplussed at the concept of shambling corpses. I’ll take dealing with a horde of zombies than five minutes in Bug City any day. The whole adventure just falls apart on the idea that characters or their players would remotely be bothered by the concept of zombies. It’s just terrible in concept and execution, and how this got through quality control is beyond me. I know it’s not just me because EVERY SINGLE SHADOWRUN GAMER I KNOW sighed in dismay when I told them what Romero & Juliette was about. Hell, go play the old Shadowrun game for the Sega Genesis. Your character is blowing up literally dozens of ghouls at the very beginning of the game. Zombies are lower on the undead pecking order, so how is this even remotely interesting to anyone? Bottom line: an entire adventure revolving around zombies is a sign that you are at the point of creative bankruptcy…unless of course you’re talking about All Flesh Must Be Eaten. That system gets a pass because well, it’s ALL about zombies and someone keeps coming up with insane but original twists on the motif.
There is so much missed opportunity here. Look at all the things they could have done instead. The adventure involves an artifact known as the Jade Cup. Instead of tying into zombies, why not tie it into something else Halloween but that also works in the Sixth World? Why not bring in a mummy? Holy crap, you don’t see many of those in Shadowrun…but they can fit in pretty easily. Why not a werewolf? You could replace the whole “Shedim possessed corpses” (which is pretty tired and played out itself) with a disease that is a mixture of lycanthropy, hypertrichosis and some sort of super rabies. So it won’t be pure horror fantasy but it will still fit Shadowrun wonderfully. Why not do an adventure that touches on the themes and plot threads from Another Rainy Night? Vampires are not only a good theme for a Halloween adventure, but there is so much going on with the ones in the Sixth World, I can’t believe they haven’t been touched in forever and a day. Again, I’m just really disappointed this adventure even got approved by someone, much less actually published.
So what do we have so far? A badly edited adventure with a plot that a ten year old could have come up and it’s tied to a convention only exclusive. At this point the question shouldn’t be what’s so bad about Romero and Juliette, but what is actually GOOD about it? Well it’s surprising to say, but there are some things. The first is that it’s not too late for CGL to edit this PDF and rerelease it, perhaps tied in with a copy of Humanitarian Aid. It doesn’t have to be a two for one either. Just make the first adventure of the two publicly available SOMEHOW. The next is the art. It’s a lot of fun and fits the theme of the adventure wonderfully. Of course, there’s also the core format of Shadowrun Missions. These things are designed so wonderfully it’s hard to find fault with the format. Whether you’re a veteran GM running one of these at a convention or it’s your first time running an adventure for ANY system whatsoever, the Shadowrun Missions format has you covered. It basically holds the hand of a GM, telling them what to say, what the stats of enemies are, potential trouble areas, ways to make the adventure harder or easier based on the skill level of the troupe, and so much more. Legwork, NPCs, maps, and everything you need for the adventure save for dice and PCs are contained in this PDF. These things are top notch in terms of format and layout, even when the writing and editing goes tits up. I also like the locale of Shirley’s Ghost and the idea of an annual mock battle with the Halloweeners. That’s about all the niceness I can throw at this adventure though.
All in all, while this is the worst adventure for the Shadowrun Missions line in some time in terms of both plot and editing, the adventure IS playable even if it is boring and trite. I suppose newcomers to Shadowrun or people who are obsessed with zombies might have some fun with this, but I found it to be god awful in nearly every way. The only thing saving this is the fact that CGL can fix some of the errors with a rerelease and that the Shadowrun Missions format is so amazingly good. Other than that though, I would advise running screaming from this pile of drek. Get all the other Shadowrun Missions from this season instead. Seriously though. Steven? Jason? If you want a Halloween themed adventure in the future, you can do a LOT better. Hell, you can hardly do WORSE. Grab someone that has written for a horror line but that also knows Shadowrun extremely well and let them go to town. Don’t let something like this happen again, please.