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Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
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Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2013 16:50:35

Dirty Tricks provides information about politics in the world of Shadowrun, which is a vicious and dangerous game even more so then today. It is a useful reference for games masters who want to mix politics with their games or just understand the way such things work in the Sixth World

Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks, a Deep Shadows Sourcebook, begins with the usual short piece of fiction, next it moves into a short primer on politics, focusing on what makes voter tick and what tricks are used to manipulate them. There is some good information here, mostly using mid to late 20th century examples. It then moves onto scandals, executive entertainment (escort services), and taking the bullet (bodyguards and security). These sections contain good general information on politics and are a useful reference for both the GM and players.

After laying the groundwork for political games (in both sense of the word) it moves on to various political hot spots: • Seattle, at the exact point that Proposition 23 is going to the vote . . . and its immediate after effects. It’s a good time in old Seattle, oh, yes. • UCAS, an overview of the politics including the upcoming presidential election, senatorial races and various local flashpoints. This provides good adventure seeds and some additional background on the hot issues in UCAS politics (and how they affect runners) is provided at the end of the section. • The South, mostly about the CAS but also some information of Aztlan and Pueblo, there have been big changes in that region which have opened up jobs for shadowrunners. • Tsimshian, politics at the edge of the NAN, a small nation and in rough shape -and thus open to Shadowrunners- but it gives a window into some of the wider debates as well. • United Kingdom, the Mother of Parliaments is not in the best of shape, new politics, new coalitions. This section is very much an overview of the current situation in the UK with a few hints towards potential jobs.

Next, the Power Brokers section gives some details on the secret societies and individuals who shape politics from behind the scenes and what their goals are, probably. Not sold on conspiracies myself, but they do make good gaming fodder.

Lastly, Game Information, a slim six pages of how to apply the information in the book and at least two plots hooks (but not more than four) for each section of the book.

If a GM wants to bring politics to the front and center of their Shadowrun campaign, this is the book for you, otherwise, it is a useful reference as to how politics work in the former US parts North America (with some new info on Tsimshian and the UK). Though, oddly, the California Free State is only mentioned obliquely, you would think that the UCAS and CAS would have a little more interest in it.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/11/2012 17:09:13

‘Dirty Tricks’ is a book that I feel SR has needed for a while. A seemingly dichotomous proposition exists in a world like Shadowrun – does anyone actually care about governments or ascribe them power in a world where a triple-A megacorp realistically wields more power? This book answers that question well, and keeps a firm eye on situating the political machinations of the Sixth World at the Shadowrunner’s eye-level.
There was certainly scope for this to read like a bad political science textbook, but instead we are treated to the wide-ranging (yet always on-topic) posts of the JackPointers we all know and love. Before I dive into the review, I will express my hope that the chap on p. 157 is a foreshadow of a future product?

Mysterious masked men aside, let’s take a look at what you get.

The point is though, that whilst the SR American government has outsourced a lot of non-essential functions (police, welfare, etc) to corporations, there is still a role for government. Whilst people are essentially owned by corporations in the 2070’s, their sense of self is often still bound to geographic and ethnic ideals, and the government is one representation of these connected ideals (it’s a nice theory, anyway). Make no mistake, however, the book underlines all of this with the clear reality that most politicians are in the race for personal power, glory and more nuyen – so very little has changed. If you’re after specific examples of this there’s a great little discussion on Seretech decision and how that changed the political landscape. I’ve always thought that this is the case that the SR game world was built on, so it’s only right that it gets some treatment in a book like this.

The opening fiction sets up the fact that Proposition 23 is the main political discussion of the Sixth World (at least in the Americas) and was an extremely enjoyable way to open the book. We’re then plunged straight into a series of chapters covering opposition intel, voter intimidation, bribes, cons, and even the , err, romantic pursuits of those in office. My favourite section was ‘Taking the Bullet’ by OrkCEO. Apart from the interesting side of the character (a former runner who now heads up a private security firm), the rest of the chapter covered all of the practical aspects about security detail ‘runs. Given that the concept can be applied to a range of other settings (ala Queen Euphoria), this is quite a valuable chapter for both GMs and players alike.

The next block covers the political landscape in Seattle, the UCAS, the South (CAS), Tsimshian and the UK. Whilst each section is individually interesting, I’d recommend taking a break between each chapter. There is a lot of information in here, and despite being well-presented, it is a lot to take in over one sitting. The only major surprise here, was the Proposition 23 results, which I honestly thought would have been in ‘SR Missions’ for continuity, rather than here. But still, the decision does make sense. Of particular interest was the section on the UK, but that’s only because I’m hoping to run a campaign based out of London in the near future. A political run might be just the thing to drop the runners in the drek and see what happens.

It closes out with a discussion of the main power groups such as the Black Lodge, Human Nation, and Illuminates of the New Dawn; followed by a few pages of plot hooks in the style that we’ve come to expect. Basically, there is no wasted space here, with solid value offered in terms of the hooks (although there would be a significant investment of time to make them into full ‘runs).

The approach taken to the writing is consistent with the mood of the book. I read these types of sourcebooks to be immersed in the Sixth World, and the reliance on fiction and Jack Point posts to deliver the information is a very effective choice. The little touches (such as the note on the Jack Point log-in page that you’re ‘registered to vote in 5 different locales with 3 different SINs’) situate the book in-world and show the sorts of (appropriately) ‘dirty tricks’ which are employed. The artwork is consistently good (one of my favourite pieces is on p. 128), and gone are the typographic errors present in many earlier products this year.

I know almost nothing about US politics (mostly as I don't live in the States), and I did feel a little trepidation about my lack of knowledge going in. However, the authors haven’t delivered a treatise on the inner political workings of the US; but rather a functioning sourcebook for fictional game world that is easy to read and could potentially be used at any table.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Stephen M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/18/2012 19:28:57

I really enjoyed the section on Seattle and the metaplot finale for the Ork Underground Missions campaign, but the other sections just didn't inspire or interest me as much as some of the other source products that Catalyst has released lately. I am intrigued how the "famine" hints will play out though with food production and shortage in Aztlan thanks to our favorite Destroyer Great Dragon.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2012 06:37:40

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/11/14/tabletop-review-shadowrun-dirty-tricks/

Dirty Tricks is the latest Shadowrun sourcebook from Catalyst Game Labs. Appropriately enough, this 162 page tome on political bribery and scandals was released on Election Day for the United States. At first I was surprised that Dirty Tricks was going to be this big. After all, at the end of 2011, they released Conspiracy Theories. It seemed like there would be a lot of overlap. Indeed there is a degree of that; something the book makes mention of several times. However Dirty Tricks fleshes out a lot of things I felt were unpolished in Conspiracy Theories, giving you far more detail so that newcomers to the game can get something out of this book (although it is still best in the hands of Sixth World veterans). In a perfect world, both books would have been one complete text, but who knows? Maybe I can convince CGL to do a “buy one, get one half off” or some or sort of bundling of the two over at DriveThruRpg.com, as both books paint a complete picture on the wacky political spectrum of a world where corporations have more rights than humans, were trolls can run for public office and Slow Loris Shamans can dictate public policy (Please actually make a Slow Loris Shaman someone…)

One thing you need to know about Dirty Tricks is that it is 98% fiction. Only the last ten pages or so are going to give you actual stats and data that is applicable to your tabletop game. Everything else is either short fiction stories or metaplot doled out in the old JackPoint forum style. This doesn’t mean there isn’t valuable information for your own personal Shadowrun campaign. Just the opposite in fact. It’s just you’re not getting rules, stat blocks and numbers for how to run a political scandal in your game. That’s really how it should be. Something like this needs to be acted out, not decided by the roll of a die. So I love the way the book handles this topic, but you are going to have to read through a lot of fiction and remember that due to the JackPoint format, some of what you are hearing is fact, some is exaggeration and some is outright falsehood (albeit not necessarily purposeful on the part of the speaker). An enterprise GM will walk away from this book with a good idea of how to do a run where players are trying to dig up dirt on a political candidate/incumbent (or suppress it), but they’ll still need to actually write the adventure themselves. The most help you’ll get in that regard from this book are twenty-seven individual paragraphs, each of which are plot hooks for different potential adventures.

There are fifteen chapters in Dirty Tricks. As mentioned earlier, fourteen of which are fiction and one is a chapter for the GM with a little bit of info on how to run an adventure where politics in the focal point. The fictional pieces are well done. One is about the attack on Aztech’s food processing facility by Sirrurg (ouch!) while another features Jimmy Kincaid (last seen in The Twilight Horizon sourcebook) in a rare positive and uplifiting Sixth World tale where good wins out over evil. Remember kids, just because Shadowrun is a darker world than our own, it doesn’t mean every story has to be gloom and doom. Then we might as well be reading Warhammer 40,000 stuff. As always the fiction is a lot of fun and helps set the mood for the rest of the book. The only story I’d give a thumb’s down to was “Memory in Time.” I didn’t care for the plot, pacing or writing.

Of course though, it’s the JackPoint segments that make up the bulk of the book and what you want to hear about. I’m happy to say all of it is pretty good. There are a few minor quibbles I had regarding the writing of the book as there were some errors about culture, local, voting demographics and the like that don’t quite match up with reality and that could have been fixed/rewritten with a little research. One example is that the section of Maine read like it was odd or rare that they have an Independent holding a Senate seat during the 2070s. However, Maine has and always love political candidates that eschew parties. Just look at Angus King. He was Governor for Cthulhu knows how long and just became a Senator. Part of this could simply be the way this section was written, but whether it was poor verbiage or just the writing/editing team just not knowing Maine’s political history, this kind of threw me for a loop. Something similar happened with Minnesota. One of the candidates is Jesse Ventura III, meant to be the grandson of “The Body” himself. Well this is impossible. Jesse’s kids are Tyrell and Jade. He doesn’t have a son named after him and thus there’s no way to have a grandson who would pull a Hubert Humphrey the Third. This is pretty common knowledge and also easily found via something like reading about Jesse in a book or via the internet, so as much as I appreciated the shout-out to a man I worked for whilst I was in college, this just felt sloppy to me. Now, little quibbles like this aside, 99.99% of the people who pick this up aren’t going to catch these errors and so they won’t care. It’s still a VERY entertaining read. It’s just CGL’s bad luck that the main Shadowrun reviewer out there worked on Ventura campaign in the late 90s, lives in Washington D.C., has two Political Science degrees and thus notices little things like these errors and inaccuracies all too easily. What are the odds?

Some of the things you’ll find in Dirty Tricks include:

Kay St. Irregular talking about how one obtains (and holds onto ) power through not-so-legal and outright illegal means. The dead even rise and vote Republican – just not for Bob Terwilliger.

How to properly intimidate voters and commit obscene acts of fraud.

Sunshine breaking down just how a scandal explodes.

SeaTAC Sweetie gives a lecture on the sexual appetites of politicians (my favorite section in the book)

What it’s like on the opposite side of a political based Shadowrun.

A look at all the major political offices up for re-election in the CAS and UCAS along with a detailed look about each state (and some specific cities) and the people running. Wonderfully done, but as I said earlier, it has a few inaccuracies throughout it regarding our mutual shared pasts (ours being reality and the Sixth World).

The history and result (!) of Proposition 23, which has been a focal point for much of the Shadowrun Missions line of adventures this season. I was a bit surprised the result was revealed here, but it makes sense since this IS a book about politics. I guess I was partly expecting it to play out in an adventure. Twenty-two pages alone is devoted to this, making it the longest topic in the book, but hey, it’s Shadowrun and it’s a Seattle focal point, of course it’s this in-depth.

A whole section devoted to Tsimshian. This was probably the worst section in the book. It wasn’t bad, just very dull and this is the one area where newcombers to Shadowrun will be the most perplexed. It’s not given any real history like other bits. You’re just kind of thrown in to the current status of the nation.

Winterhawk, The Smiling Bandit and newcomer Chainmaker lead us on a merry romp through the politics of the United Kingdom. This is another chapter where people won’t know what is going on unless they’re really been reading sourcebooks on the UK. Otherwise they won’t know who the Lord Protector was (in terms of title and perhaps living state….Blah!) or what’s up with the mysterious figure known as the Pendragon. Another place where background information could have been very useful for newbies, but at least it’s not as bad as Conspiracy Theories in this regard.

In my second favorite bit in the book, Plan 9 leads us through a look at the Black Lodge and also how he systematically checks things out. It turns out there is a method to the madness of everyone’s favorite conspiracy theorist. I loved this look into the research patterns of my favorite JackPointer, as well as a look at my favorite mysterious faction in the game. No mention of Killer BOB or Laura Palmer though.

There are a few other things here and there. Danielle De La Mar is brought up for some reason. She is a relatively obscure character save for the appearance in Jet Set so her being brought up ever so slightly in an indicator that the character is about to get some big time exposure, especially with her “censor the Matrix” campaign. There are also hints that FastJack still isn’t quite right (Shedim? Dead and a Matrix ghost now? Senility setting in? You decide!) and that someone big is still after Snopes (but why and who?) . The vast majority of the book is a solid and entertaining read from beginning to end. The price point ($25 for a PDF) might be too high for some, especially when compared to things like Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition which for five bucks more, gives you a full colour PDF and nearly four times the page count, but for hardcore fans of the system, this is one of the better books CGL has released this year. If you have the money to spare, definitely considering picking up Dirty Tricks, especially if you are remotely interested in politics or need some inspiration for something other than the usual run on evil mega-corporations.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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