||Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/02/20/tabletop-review-shadowr-
When you think of Shadowrunners, images of decadent meals on a luxury liner or being paid 30,000 nuyen to find Mr. Friskies, a prize winning Persian, don’t immediately appear in one’s mind. However, much like in our own society, the Sixth World has the decadently wealthy and the eccentric rich alike. Just look at Samantha and Richard Villiers. Although games of Shadowrun might mention the names of movers and shakers and characters might even be hired by a Mr. Johnson who works for someone that works for someone that works for someone that works for the head of a major corporation, but it’s very rare (or should be) for runners, even Street Legends, to come into direct contact (or direct hire) with the people that make things happen in a Post-Awakening world. Jet Set, the latest adventure collection from Catalyst Game Labs seeks to change that. In the seventeen adventures that fall between both cover pages, players will find themselves directly interacting with some of the wealthiest and most power people of the Sixth World – and making paydays which reflect that –if they can complete the missions.
My one (minor) problem with Jet Set is that not all of the adventures in the collection fit the above theme. Several just feel like they were extra adventures left over and used to pad the overall book. That doesn’t mean that they are bad adventures. In fact, they’re all pretty good. It’s just several adventures don’t involve any contact with the “upper crust” at all, which has me wondering why they were included here and not elsewhere.
Jet Set‘s adventures are very different from say, the Shadowrun Missions line. The latter gives you step by step instructions on how to run an adventure and are geared to help new GMs, or those that like to have their hand held, create a top notch experience for their players. Jet Set however, is very different from that. Much like other collections like Corporate Intrigue or Artifacts Unbound, Jet Set is geared for veteran Shadowrun GMs. In collections like this you are given an overview, basic plot points regarding how the adventure should flow, and then finally NPC stats and the occasional map when needed. The GM is responsible for fully fleshing out the adventure and making sure it runs smoothly. As such, a new or less experienced Shadowrun GM will have more trouble with the layout of this adventure collection. Those GMs will still want to pick this up either for the fun of reading or for use when they feel more confident in their ability to run an adventure, but they may want to stick with Shadowrun Missions instead. Long time vets of Shadowrun will have no problem with this format and may even prefer it, as it gives them more creative freedom. Just remember that all of these adventures are part of the meta-continuity and you may see the results show up in a later Shadowrun product.
Now. Let’s run down all seventeen adventures (along with the Jackpoint opening) and give you a straight yay or nay on the quality of the adventure.
1. Jackpoint/The Kingdom of the Air. As always the Jackpoint sections are incredibly well done. For those new to Shadowrun Jackpoint basically sets up the entire tone of the book in-universe as a Sixth World equivalent of a chatroom/message board specifically for Shadowrunners. Fastjack gives the discussion topic and then introduces the main speaker, who in this case is Fianchetto. Fianchetto then gives a rundown of corporate big wigs and affluent rich people in the Sixth World, many of who will appear in the seventeen contained in this collection. I really had a lot of fun with this and it was great to see Fianchetto, a Shadowrunner who also lives an opulent highlife, take center stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the piece. 1 for 1.
2. Semiballistic Impact. So remember how earlier I was talking about the fact that Jet Set had a few pieces that didn’t really fit into the theme of the collection. Well this is one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really awesome idea. Just don’t expect to see any billionaires in the piece. This adventure is a simple idea but well executed. It puts your characters on a public semiballistic flight when something bad happens. This adventure really tests players as they can’t rely on big guns or even some cybernetics. If you are a GM that feels your game has become more roll-playing than role-playing, this is the adventure to run with. Such an obvious idea but it still manages to feel outside the box. 2 for 2.
3. Subroutine. If you have a dark sense of humour, this is probably the adventure for you. This adventure is basically a combination of a routine extraction mission with a comedy of errors. The players need to extract an extra girl band pop star turned music industry business manager so that she can get out of her contract with the Yakuza. Meanwhile the same night this is planned, someone else has a similar deal going with a different team of runners. Hilarity ensues. Well, it won’t be hilarious to the players while they run the adventure, but afterwards expect a lot of laughter about the whole scenario. Another great example of a simple generic idea being turned on its head and made into something memorable. This is my second favorite adventure in the collection. 3 for 3.
4. Nine-Tenths. Someone’s been killing recipients of “tokens of exteem” from Dunkelzahn’s will. The Draco Foundation has been putting the kibosh on any information about the killings. Unfortunately for them, their stonewalling of info on the slayings have not only pissed off the FBI but specifically a UCAS Senator who is gunning for blood about this. This brings in the players as “unofficial representatives” who get to go globetrotting in regards to who has been doing the killings and why. The adventure is a lot of fun and it’s neat to have an adventure where the players are working FOR a government that isn’t Amazonia or Aztlan for once. The ending is pretty unexpected too. 4 for 4.
5. Photo Ops. Didn’t I just mention Amazonia and Aztlan? Well, in this adventure your players are headed back to Bogata (a source of a lot of published adventures these days). Instead of engaging in the politics of war as you normally do in this location, you’re instead engaging in the politics of celebrities. This adventure involves working with celebrities that…well, let’s just say their opinion of them themselves are a bit high and as such they’re making stupid choices, albeit with good intentions, in a war torn region. This is another somewhat comical adventure and it highlights the wackiness that comes with mixing Shadowrunners in with people who have more money than common sense. This is exactly the type of thing I had hoped to see in Jet Set and I wasn’t disappointed. 5 for 5.
6. Operation Blindside. This is another adventure that doesn’t quite fit the theme and it would have been better off in something like War! or even Corporate Intrigue. The adventure fits the theme loosely with a tacked on bit at the end of the adventure where a connection to a Great Dragon passes a message on to the runners to give to their Mr. Johnson. The adventure itself involves stealing some satellite codes followed by a trip into space. It’s a neat adventure and it probably wasn’t included in Corporate Intrigue as it already contained a “journey into space” piece, but it still doesn’t fit the theme. I’ll give it a point because it was fun to run, and that’s what counts. 6 for 6.
7. One Step Ahead. This is an odd little adventure as the characters and possibly even the players won’t ever really get a sense of completion after finishing One Step Ahead. This set of seemingly unrelated tasks don’t seem to mean anything even when put together, but that’s because they are all part of a Great Dragon’s plan for the long term. Characters will go to the CAS, China, Japan, Portugal and Germany (The Sixth World equivalent, that is) doing everything from replacing a few circuit boards in some drones to kidnapping people from other corporations. The only way this adventure will make complete sense to those playing it is a) if they read it after playing through it and b) are heavily invested in the meta campaign CGL puts out. It’s a decent adventure but again it doesn’t really fit the theme of Jet Set and it’s such a weird adventure I can’t see a lot of people actually “getting” it and thus enjoying it. 6 for 7.
8. Aztlan Counterstrike. This ties in directly to Operation Blindside and once again, the adventure doesn’t fit the theme of the collection. That means half the adventure so far have this problem. Ouch. Anyway, this adventure puts you on the Aztlan side instead of the Amazonia and that’s always hard to pull off with some players as well, Aztlan is pretty evil. This adventure has you capturing a traitor to Aztlan so they can be tortured for information. Then the players are asked to capture a warehouse used by Aztlan’s enemies as a weapon distribution center with minimal loss of life or permanent physical harm to those involved. From there you are asked to do a few other things ranging from collapsing enemy tunnels to rescung some Aztlan troops that are little more than POWs. All in all it’s about as ethical or “in the right” as Aztlan gets and so it’s easier to spin this adventure in a way that more moral characters will still go through will helping Aztlan here. For us I had Raul Chavez (your equivalent to a Mr. Johnson in this adventure) be a bit naïve and well-meaning, even if he works for Aztechnology. Trying for peace and civility as best he can in this war. It’s not really how he’s meant to be played, but with the background about Chavez provided in this adventure, it fits the character and makes the adventure more inviting to both characters that are amoral mercs and those who want to be “heroic.” 7 for 8.
9. The Dragon Slayers. A cut and dry adventure here. Players are hired by a Mr. Johnson with a very anti-dragon agenda. Characters are then set loose to engage in deeds that will annoy various dragon based machinations and bring a potential metahumans Vs dragon war even closer to reality. I really didn’t care for this adventure for multiple reason. The first is that it’s going to be a hard adventure to get characters to agree too as very few are going to be stupid/insane enough to actively piss off dragons. The second is that this is another adventure that only works if the players and GM have been following every little pit of story continuity CGL has been throwing out. The third is that the adventure revolves way too much around a MacGuffin whose secret power just doesn’t hold up when looked at with the slightest bit of logic or common sense. Basically considering the specific ability of the object and how it is activated, there’s no possible way that it would be where it is, how it is, when it is. It’s just not very well done or thought out. Fourth and finally, it’s another adventure that really doesn’t fit the “Jet Set” theme. 7 for 9.
10. Foreign Policy. This is a clever little adventure. Here players have to get a Ms. Johnson across the Tír Tairngire border without getting caught. Ouch. The funny thing is that this little endeavor just might be the easiest part of the adventure! From there, players will be doing things like acting as entourage for the High Prince of the Tír Tairngire to helping fend off a terrorist attack. It’s a pretty intense adventure that has serious repercussions for a major player in the Sixth World. Let’s hope they don’t find out the player’s role in their fate… This is a lot of fun and it really gives characters a chance to hobnob with some of the most powerful figures in the Sixth World. 8 for 10.
11. Nine Lives. This is a pretty dark adventure as players will be engaging in out and out cold blooded murder and nothing else. As I mentioned in my review of Corporate Intrigue, adventures where players are clearly the bad guys are hard to run because some characters and/or players will balk at doing them. I applauded CGL for making adventures for, what other RPGs would deem “evil characters” as the Sixth World is a pretty dark place. However where some of those “evil” oriented adventures contained provisions on how to get players to be okay with the missions or even get out of doing them, others did not. The latter got negative marks from me for that reason. Well, either Catalyst Game Labs has noticed that this is a recurring problem with adventures that are geared for the more unethical runners or they take my reviews more seriously than I thought as this particular adventure has a sideboard about this issue that takes up a full third of a page. This sideboard comes right out and openly talks about the issue that can occur with an adventure like this one, how to deal with them, and even how to make them into a quality in-game roleplaying experience. I loved this. This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to see CGL tackle and I’m glad it’s right here in an adventure where characters are actively murdering people to get to a particularly powerful player in the Sixth World. Anyway, this is one of the better wetworks oriented adventures I’ve seen for Shadowrun and it does have a fitting ending as well. 9 for 11.
12. Shell Games. This adventure is one that lets players get personally involved in the dark underbelly of Seattle politics. The runners are hired to be security for the main challenger in Seattle’s upcoming Mayoral elections. It’s a simple enough job, but things get crazy when a relative of the challenger appears to be kidnapped by agents of the incumbent and the runners have to get her back. If successful, the players get a face to face meeting with one of the most power elves in the Sixth World. It’s a fun adventure that mixes political intrigue with deduction and violence, so it has something for everyone. For some reason I see the events of this adventure being fleshed out further in an eventual Shadowrun Missions, but maybe that’s just me. 10 for 12.
13. Dragonchasers. This is another odd adventure. Players will be escorting an eastern dragon to Japan where she will attempt to have a diplomatic meeting with another ancient and powerful creature. Then a Yakuza faction shows up shooting everything that moves. It’s a neat idea for an adventure but yet again, this is one that only works if players are primarily concerned with the current metaplot and will only understand what is actually going on in the adventure if they read through it after the fact. Otherwise there is only a very slim percentage of a chance that any character will be able to know what’s actually unfolding here. This makes Dragonchasers fun to READ, but not so much fun to PLAY. It’s definitely something more for the GM’s enjoyment than the actual people playing it. 10 for 13.
14. Out of Egypt. Okay, so THIS is a really fun adventure. Take the classic setup of your typical “breaking and looting” run, place it in Egypt instead of say, Seattle, and add in an magical artifact and you have yourselves the recipe for a fun adventure. Half the fun is watching your players come up with Ocean’s Eleven type capers to get in and out of The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and then watching them pull their plan off. Running this adventure lets the GM feel like a spectator at times – in a good way, not an, “OH MY GOD I’VE LOST CONTROL OF MY OWN GAME” way. Along the way a very famous and powerful corporate player will interject themselves into the adventure and the runners will have to deal with a few attempts by other teams to steal the artifact from them once they have recovered it. Just a good classic heist adventure from beginning to end. 11 for 14.
15. The Giggling Assassin. This a strange adventure as the title refers back to the piece of fiction that precedes it rather than the adventure itself. The adventure itself directly relates back to a set of adventures from Corporate Intrigue and unless you have read and/or played through those adventures, you won’t really get anything out of this one. If you just go off the few pages here, both players and GM will more than likely be confused as to what The Giggling Assassin is all about and that’s never a good thing. At the same time, even though the WHY is muddled to people who only have Jet Set, the actual journey of the adventure is pretty interesting, right down to some contact with e-ghosts. I can’t fully recommend this adventure for the reasons above (It also doesn’t actually fit the Jet Set theme) but it does have some neat bits to it. 11 for 15.
16. A Taste of the Tour. This is my favorite adventure in the entire collection as it is as unique as it is funny. A Taste of the Tour is exactly what I had hoped to see in Jet Set – Shadowrunners having to hobnob with dilettantes and eccentric rich folk. You characters will make insane amounts of money for doing some pretty bizarre activities. They’ll get to meet some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the Sixth World and they’ll be running the gambit from playing paparazzi to helping people hook up. (Nudge nudge wink wink). Between this and Photo Ops, you have the two adventures that bets fit the theme of the book (and the Jackpoint opening) and both should delight new Shadowrunners and vets alike. 12 for 16.
17. Pure Wrath. There’s something spooooooky going on at the Angel Towers Arcology in London, and it’s up to the runners to figure out what. In a world where dragons, ghosts, ghouls and the like run around freely, it’s hard to create an adventure for Shadowrun that has a horror movie feel. Pure Wrath really tries though and between the fiction that precedes it and the adventure itself, it comes close. The creep factor works best with players new to Shadowrun or with characters that are just starting out on their (hopefully) long and illustrious career. Of course in true Shadowrun fashion, the creepiness is actually pretty mundane (for the Sixth World), but it’s a nice atmospheric adventure that reminds me of the old Call of Cthulhu classic “The Edge of Darkness.” This is definitely an adventure I’d use to introduce people to Shadowrun. 13 for 17.
18. Reclaiming Lost Sheep. This is a fun adventure to end things on, although it’s best suited for groups that are playing close attention to the metaplot. Runners will be working for NeoNet and Richard Villiers in an attempt to draw out Miles Lanier and return him to the corporation. Of course, if you know anything about these two name characters, then you know this isn’t going to be anything close to a cut and dry experience. The adventure will make the characters a LOT of money and it’s a lot of fun, so it’s definitely worth playing through. The adventure ends on somewhat of a mysterious note that will no doubt be followed up on in a later book, be it source material or another adventure. It’s a lot of fun and definitely worth doing. 14 for 18.
19. Character Trove. Stats and maps for NPCs. Always nice to have these. 15 for 19.
So overall, Jet Set has roughly an 80% quality rating. Although I was a bit disappointed that a full third of the adventures don’t really fit the “Jet Set” theme, the vast majority of the actual Jet Set collection is well done. Even the adventures I didn’t give a thumb’s up to had their moments and for only eighteen bucks, you’re getting a really nice collection of adventures that should last your Shadowrun troupe for quite some time. Just remember you’re paying roughly $1.06 per adventure. That’s an awesome deal no matter how you look at it. Jet Set is definitely something veteran Shadowrun fans will have fun with, as several of the adventures are pretty outside the usual missions characters perform ad nauseum. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air or some adventures that will throw your usual band of cybernetic misfits for a loop, pick up Jet Set.
[4 of 5 Stars!]