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Posts Tagged ‘Shadowrun’

#RPGaDay 17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

That reward would go to Fiasco, which I have owned for around five years now, but have never even read or attempted to get to the table. If we were including games that we used to own but never played, it would include some really weird stuff from my childhood that I bought used, such as Albedo  and the Doctor Who game from the 80s.  Yes, I once bought a furry RPG.  I was young and didn’t know what I was doing and the artwork seemed cool.  I’m not sure that the Doctor Who game was ever designed to be actually playable.  That’s a setting where the character is too central, and half the fun of an RPG is making your own character.  You’d just be setting up pale imitations of the Doctor.

Fiasco, I actually do want to play though.  From my understanding, I think it would be a really solid game to introduce core role-playing concepts to new players with.  Everybody understands how a heist movie plays out.  There’s some of the core game play of Shadowrun in that, of watching a good plan go to shit, and enjoying the experience along the way.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

I don’t tend to tinker with the mechanics and rules much of any of the games I play.  I’m just one person, and I usually expect that the designer has done considerable play-testing to balance things to their desires.  And anyway, I don’t actually care very much about “balance.”  These games are not competitive.  Hell, some of the most fun I had growing up was playing RIFTS, which was notorious for having power creep that was absurd.  We started out fighting fascist robots and power armor guys and you end up killing transdimensional slug gods.  But you know what?  If it makes for a good story, then I don’t care one way or another.

In the previous entry, I talked about how I’ll create my own settings because I find personal ownership makes it easier for me to work within them.  That said, some games, the setting is so inextricably linked to the game design itself that you can’t really take the “game” out of it.  For me, the best example of this has to be Shadowrun.  Now, I know that the game has evolved and put out a million source books for playing all over the globe, but for me, peak Shadowrun is set in 2051 in Seattle.  It has Stuffer Shacks and arcologies and all the fun Pacific Northwest rain that is so iconic.  I know some people prefer other cities such as Chicago or Denver or Berlin, but I’ve never really felt like those cities worked the same way Seattle did for me.  Personal preference.

I could try to run Shadowrun in my own setting, but I just don’t think it would work.   That game, I’ll always end up playing in-setting as is.

It seems I’m starting to recycle through the same games over and over again. I’m a little worried that makes these entries boring.  Sorry for that if so!

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 12 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Rifts.  For me, it’s got to be the artwork for Rifts and its umpteen-million source books (which I seemed, at one point, to own every single one of.  Had to spend my hard earned fast food job money somehow, I guess.)

The first game system I discovered after D&D was Palladium’s ruleset, first in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.  This would have been around 1985 or so, and I discovered the floppy covered beauty of a main rule book tucked in the back corner of a B. Dalton Books.   This game was a thing before the turtles became major pop icons, and it was far better than it had any right to be.  I made probably hundreds of mutant characters on my own up in my room, filling reams of paper with character sheets generated from their mutant generation rules, which had a weird points buy system to evolve an animal from its natural form towards humans.  Buy hands, and you might not be able to grow bigger.   If I recall correctly, the interior art there was almost entirely original comics art, at least in the main rulebook.

Speaking of the Ninja Turtles, allow me a brief aside for what may have been the first moment in my life where I felt some sense of real public shame: after the release of the TMNT movie, I was obsessed with the theme song from the movie, and I would call our local Topeka radio station a couple of times a day begging them to play it.  One day, the disc jockey asked me to say some of the lines from the movie, which I gleefully recited in my best surfer dude turtle voice.  Little did I know he was recording our call, and while they did play the song, he also played my stupid little impressions.  Hearing them played back before the song was not worth it; I was embarassed as hell to hear myself coming out of the radio.  And that, ladies and gentleman, was the day I became an adult.

So, back to the artwork discussion.  By the time Palladium got around to publishing their batshit crazy Rifts game, the artwork for most of their books was primarily being done by Kevin Long. Now, I know the names of maybe two or three RPG artists, but I learned Kevin Long’s name in junior high because his art was so crucial to establishing the Rifts world. I’d argue that Rifts would not have succeeded or gone nearly anywhere without Long’s artwork.  Apparently, he left Palladium in 1995, and now works in video games, according to Wikipedia. Honestly, if anyone ever wanted to surprise me with a piece of original art that would be like gazing into a well full of concentrated nostalgia, the artist would have to be Long.

Honorable mention would have to go to the early editions of Shadowrun and Earthdawn, which heavily featured work by Jeff Laubenstein and Tim Bradstreet.  I think I once had the opportunity to buy some Bradstreet art but I was broke at the time.  One day…

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

If I could be playing any role-playing game right this very second, it would have to be Shadowrun, chummer.

If you’ve never heard of Shadowrun, allow me to summarize.  If William Gibson and J.R.R. Tolkien stayed up all night doing blow and riffing on each other’s work, they might have come up with Shadowrun.  In this game, set originally in the far off future of 2050 (ha!),  magic has returned to a cyberpunk future.  We have the usual themes of megacorporations ruling the world, and of crushing poverty in the cracks, but add to that dwarves, elves, trolls, and and orcs, among many other new “goblinized” races that have sprung back into being with the return of dragons, shamanistic magic, and good old fashioned wizardry.   Native Americans have taken back much of North America, and what we think of the U.S. has shrunk considerably, with one major seat of power being Seattle, which is home to several of the giant megacorporations.

In Shadowrun, the players take the role of runners, criminal operatives who eek out an existence outside the system.  It’s a game of heists, of moral grays, and I don’t think any game captures the feeling of living in 2017 better for me.  In Shadowrun, everything is coated in a layer of grime, and there’s a strong sense of living in a world that’s the product of vast, uncaring forces that could crush you out of existence at any moment. Still, there is a lingering sense of wonder, and there’s the possibility of hope, of scoring big, of making it out.   Dreaming of a better life is never quite dead in Shadowrun, but it always feels just a little bit out of reach.  Maybe one more run will lead to a better life, but it’s more likely that your corporate masters will betray you, shoot you, and leave you to bleed out in the gutter because you failed to make your DocWagon contract payment this past month.

A lot about the news lately has reminded me of the thrill of playing Shadowrun as a teenager with my best friends, Hans, Jason, and Jared.  The four of us cut a swathe through the cyberpunk Seattle that was epic and exciting.  I think nearly all of us tried our hand at game mastering stories.  Later, in college,  I played in a epic campaign not as a runner, but as a runner turned DocWagon operative charged with heading into gun battles to save dying runners who were paid up on their contracts.   Of course, not all was on the level inside of DocWagon. Conspiracies were discovered, and everything turned to shit in that particularly exciting way that always seemed to happen in a good game of Shadowrun.

A lot of games of Shadowrun played out like this:

  • Players are presented with a job by the GM, hired by some shady NPC or fixer
  • Players research and meticulously plan the job like professional criminals
  • Job goes south in about 30 seconds, but players manage to succeed at their goal

Somehow, this never grew old for me, and even though we knew the plan was never going to go off quite right, it was always exciting to see how things were going to turn.  Shadowrun was a lesson for me in how the desires of the participants don’t always make for the best stories.  Can you imagine how boring Shadowrun would have been if every single job went off without a single hitch?  You might as well get a job as a salaryman, chummer.   At that point, you’re just workin’ for the man.

Shadowrun was never a perfect game, mechanically speaking.  I’ve played something like four or five different editions, and I’ve never felt any of them balanced out very well.  Cybernetically-enhanced reflexes were nearly always a must.  I’m not sure what the current version requires, but back in the day, if you wanted to roll giant fistfuls of dice, playing a street samurai with enhanced reflexes was a sure-fire way to do so.

Me, on the rare occasions that I got to play instead of GMing, I always liked playing shamen.  I’m not a very spiritual person, but the mystical/spiritual world of shamanic magic in Shadowrun always appealed to me in some deep and profound way.  Nature spirits were intriguing, especially urban ones.  The novel series by Robert N. Charrette played heavily in my interest, I suspect.  I am often tempted to re-read these books with an adult writer’s eye, but I worry they would disappoint me.

For me, Shadowrun captures all the excitement of living in today’s upside down world, with none of the risks.  There are many a day where I would happily return to the 1990s and play Shadowrun instead of living in 2017 in the Trump presidency, watching as corporations grow in power with each passing day.  We’re getting all the negative parts of Shadowrun, and none of the good.  Sadly, it seems like a magical awakening isn’t in the cards for us here in the real world.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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