‘Hazard Pay’ occupies the niche of the book you didn’t know you needed desperately for Shadowrun. Whilst the established trope for SR has been the urban run, this book not only shows the true wealth of opportunities for extremes of environments, but it does so in a way which makes sense for the ultra-industrialised, population saturated Sixth World.
Whilst it may be easy to pigeon-hole this as the ‘environmental book’, it does cast a slightly wider scope than I had originally expected, and this is brought to the fore in the first section covering Awakened environmental protectors and despoilers. There are a host of possible allied organisations, all dedicated to preserving either the natural or Awakened flora and fauna, and then it moves into the despoilers of the environment. Each group is given a few key NPC’s (and their respective bounties), all of whom are fully statted-out. You’ll find the manifestations of the Four Horseman, a swarm of insect shamans, a pool of toxic shamans and even a Blood Magic group. Plenty of adventure fodder here. What really shone about this section (apart from the unexpected nature of the content) was that it presents environmental degradation as the world-wide problem it should be in Shadowrun and shows how it is further compounded by the Awakened nature of the setting.
The rest of the book covers the oceans, then extremes of cold (Arctic and Antarctic), space and deserts respectively. Whilst all of the sections are extremely well-developed and written, it is clear that the designers (like me) have a soft spot for cold environments. This chapter takes the lion’s share of the page count, organisations and corporations, and plot hooks (which are liberally sprinkled throughout the whole chapter). The other stand-out was the section on the ocean, and my earlier point about situating the environment sensibly within the game world is borne out here. The chapter introduces the aquacologies which have been constructed on the ocean floor and one in particular (the Proteus construction) is given especial attention. The real strength of these aquacologies is that there is enough familiar touchstones for the PCs (in terms of the city layout, expectations of the sprawl, etc) but the setting give it just enough danger and flavour to make it challenging and memorable.
The Awakened animals in the Arctic section are a fine complimentary data set to ‘Parazoology’ and any of the ‘Paranormal animals of…’ series. They range from the extremely dangerous Awakened Bear you see on the front cover all the way through to the whimsical flying reindeer. In fact a good portion of this section serves to introduce hazardous fauna to the unwary.
The very last section gives the reader all the expected additional SR mechanical information from new gear, guns and spells; as well as rules for handling environmental conditions (which are smooth and streamlined).
The fiction throughout is succinct and does a lot to introduce each chapter and the ever-present BBS-style commentary makes this a pleasure to read. All the old favourites are back with plenty of links to recent products for the canny reader. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this book and will be adding a copy to my physical gaming collection too. The reason why this is receiving a four-star rating instead of the five it should deserve is due to the typos which occur all the way through the book. Hopefully these are fixed well before it goes to physical print to save further disappointment.
[4 of 5 Stars!]