Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/14/tabletop-review-shadowrun-dark-angel/
With due respect to Takeshi Kaga, if memory serves me correctly, Dark Angel was one of the very first published adventures for second edition Shadowrun, my favorite version of the game. I owned this adventure back in the day, but never had the chance to play it or run it. Back then I didn’t know anyone besides myself interested in Japanese language and culture, so this adventure would have gone over like a lead balloon with my gaming group. You see this adventure is exceptionally Yakuza heavy, even for an early Shadowrun product. Back in the days of yore the Yakuza was almost as powerful as a Megacorp. There was a real hard-on so to speak for Japanese organized crime over at FASA but over the years that has dissipated and the Yakuza has been diluted. Sure they still surface with adventures like the modern 99 Bottles, but CGL is focused far more on dragon politics and mega-corps relations than the Yakuza – one of the many things that separates their version of Shadowrun from the older, original version.
Like most first and second edition Shadowrun adventures, Dark Angel is anything but straight forward and there are more plot twists than you would find in a Vince Russo penned episode of WCW Monday Nitro (that reference is as dated as this adventure!). Of course the core of the adventure is all about greed and people wanting a piece (or the whole thing) of the pie, but it’s wrapped up in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in a way we don’t usually see Shadowrun anymore – unless it’s in an adventure compendium like Jet Set. As such, it’s a fun read for those of us who have been with Shadowrun since the beginning, but younger gamers or those that have only played the CGL version of the game might be confused by the complexity of the plot and the power of the Yakuza here.
Dark Angel revolves around the late, great Jim Crull whose rock and roll stage name was Dark Angel. Crull was an outspoken elf musician who lived way below his means and was only too happy to be a living incarnation of the phrase, “Damn the man!” Unfortunately his death via BTL induced suicide showed that he didn’t always walk the walk even though he talked the talk. His music and all the money that went along with it ended up in the hands of a shady producer by the name of Dynamo Blue – mainly because Krull’s last will and testament allocated them to her. The PCs are hired by Krull’s scorned ex to get a piece of the profits as she feels the is owed something for her life with Dark Angel. Lill Ice, Krull’s steady squeeze, believes that Dynamo Blue had to use some sort of nefarious means to get possession of his music rights and she wants the runners to check it out.
Here’s where things go wildly off the rails. As the players investigate, it appears that Dynamo Blue did indeed have something to do with Krull’s untimely demise. However it’s far more complicated that suicide or a murder for cash and profits. As the runners dig through the history of Dark Angel’s last few days, they discover far more than they bargained for. There’s multiple family based betrayals, kidnapping, a grudge of unimaginable proportions, a truly horrific plot of revenge that was over a decade in the making, potential conflict with Lone Star, long drawn out encounters with the Yakuza and a truly massive and bizarre secret about Jim Krull that they players won’t ever see coming. It’s a pretty intense and fast paced adventure that really exemplifies of awesome Shadowrun was in the 90s and why it was considered one of the big three games (along with D&D and Call of Cthulhu) until the rise of White Wolf would occur a few years later.
The latter half of the adventure involves players figuring out how to deal with the Yakuza. If they kill a gang boss crucial to this plot, they set themselves up for a lifetime of retaliation and assassination attempts. They could actually make a deal with the member of the Yakuza behind the entire Dark Angel debacle in order to get Lill the rights to Krull’s music, but that will involve a lot of legwork and favors and many players probably don’t want to have their characters beholden to a Yakuza crime lord. Another option is to seek assassination sanction on this particular Yakuza member from a higher ranking Oyabun. No matter what route the runners take though, they will forever have a relationship with the Yakuza, be it adversarial or congenial. As such, this a GM really has to decide if they want to run this adventure as it will have both long and short term effects on the entire campaign they are running.
All in all, this is a really fun adventure. I really miss the old artwork styling of first and second edition Shadowrun and so it was fun to review this re-release just for that. It was also a nice blast of nostalgia to see condition monitors throughout this adventure. The adventure has a great story with a plot that the runners won’t be expecting and it’s definitely an adventure you and your friends will have fond memories of playing through. It’s got a lot of action, a cast of memorable characters and it’s a great example of all that second edition Shadowrun has to offer. At only four bucks, Dark Angel is well worth picking up for reading and the artwork, even if you never play it. It is after all, for a much older version of Shadowrun that doesn’t see a lot of use these days.