Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/10/15/tabletop-review-shadowrun-sacrificial-limb/
Sacrificial Limb is the second in the new line of Boardroom Backstabs adventures that Catalyst Game Labs is putting out for Shadowrun. I absolutely HATED the first one (Damage Control) and it’s a toss-up between whether that or Romero and Juliette is the worst thing put out for Shadowrun this year (or in some time actually). So it was with great trepidation that I went into Sacrificial Limb, expecting the worst. Thankfully, Sacrificial Limb turned out to be an excellent product and a vast improvement over Damage Control. While it isn’t the best product put out for Shadowrun this year, it’s still a fine adventure that includes multiple outcomes based on how players might react to the situations within.
This particular adventure takes place over seven scenes, although only scene six OR seven will occur at the end, based on choices the players make through the other five scenes. The goal of Sacrificial Limb is for the players to infiltrate Knight Errant itself (A private police force controlled by the MegaCorp Ares for newcomers to Shadowrun.) and do well enough in the initial trainee program to be assigned to OSP, or the Office of Special Projects. Players will never be quite sure as to who is hiring him them for this mission and why, but rest assured that neither the players nor their Ms. Johnson will be expecting what awaits them at OSP. For both parties it’s equal parts massive paydirt and horror, and the climax promises to be an exceptionally memorable one for anyone that has played Shadowrun for an extended period of time. The downside is that yes, you DO need to have played Shadowrun for some time for the payoff to be fully effective or even dramatic for you. Otherwise the reaction could range anywhere from “Okay?” to “Let’s help XXX out!”
One of the things I really liked about Sacrificial Limb is that it constantly gives you options to pad the adventure out into a full length chronicle that you and your gaming troupe can spend months on. The ideas aren’t just cheap filler either. Instead they are actual solid subplots that let Sacrificial Limb become a full chronicle, where characters NPCs become recurring allies or antagonists, to help the GM plant small seeds about what the eventual climax will be. I also really liked the maps and handouts. While they weren’t, say, Chaosium level quality, I thought they were especially helpful for running the core storyline of the adventure. A quality handout can push a fun adventure into the realms of a memorable one. Because Shadowrun tends to have things in a virtual sense rather than a physical or tactile one, it’s hard to do really good handouts for the system. I mean, it’s one thing to make a realistic leathered parchment containing a horrible spell in a forgotten language. It’s another to replicate a trid or an income message via the Matrix. I also really liked the artwork here. One thing I noticed is that it featured the same team of runners throughout, instead of random pictures semi-based on the topic at hand. That was a nice touch you don’t see very often.
One thing I really didn’t like about Sacrificial Limb is that there isn’t anything after the climax. What I mean is that the players enter OSP, realize where it is and the creepiness going on there, and then… the adventure doesn’t give any real way to wrap things up for either possible ending that you can get. That was a real disappointment, as everything else was so well written and laid out. There aren’t any real hints as how to run anything once players are in OSP. It’s as if the adventure was released unfinished, and this really drags down the quality of what was an otherwise truly excellent release by CGL. Scenes six and seven read (and feel) more like a rough draft brainstorming session, and so it’s up to the GM running Sacrificial Limb to really work out all possible outcomes that players might try for and the results of the actions. Both end scenes are less fleshed out that what you see in adventure compilations like Jet Set or Corporate Intrigue. There is a good chance that at least one character will walk away very different from how they were before they entered OSP (no spoilers here for once, as it’s a very good twist that I don’t want to ruin) and an even greater chance that the players will cause a major Sixth World player to come crashing down in the world of corporate intrigue due to what’s going on at OSP, so it’s all the more imperative that whoever is running this is aware of how the ball gets dropped with the ending of the adventure and is thusly prepared for the amount of legwork needed to get things awesome instead of falling apart.
All in all, Sacrificial Limb is a VAST improvement over Damage Control, and is filled with nearly everything you need to make the adventure one that you and your friends will talk about long after you’ve completed it. It’s well written and covers nearly every snafu players could throw at it. You get to travel to some uncommon locations, like Detroit, as well as one very infamous city, as the PCs climb through the ranks of Knight Errant’s training grounds. There are a lot of memorable NPCs, and depending on how players get through the adventure, their actions could really shake up the Sixth World in some subtle but dramatic ways. The fact you’re getting what could be a full chronicle/campaign for only eight dollars is an incredible deal. Basically, if you’re looking for an outside the box adventure to play and something that offers a nice climax that players won’t see coming until they know exactly where OSP is located and what it is up to (or they’ve read the adventure ahead of time… spoilsports), Sacrificial Limb is as much fun to read through as it is to play, and will definitely be a talking point both in the metaplot of the Sixth World and on Shadowrun oriented websites/forums for some time to come.