So as the D&D game is winding down (possibly involving both dungeons and actual dragons), I’m looking to the next thing that I’m likely to take part in, which is Shadowrun. For those who are unaware, Shadowrun is a cyberpunk setting that also happens to include magic and some “traditional fantasy races” although not in traditional roles, in some cases. For more info, play one of the recent Shadowrun Returns games.
The Shadowrun setting is a bit of a relic of the 80s, and has some weird things in it associated with that. Some of those have been touched on in later editions (4e and 5e decided that “everything is wireless”), but some have not. The New Age movement influenced the political landscape in Shadowrun, including a nation of hippie elves and Native Americans taking over most of the US. Megacorps are a product of the time the game was written (and the term itself is borrowed from William Gibson)*. Virtual reality did not quite take off like the writers expected**. The fall of the Soviet Union was unexpected, but the only effect in the setting is that the name is changed from USSR to “Russian Federation”***. In 2015, some of it is quite anachronistic for what’s supposed to be the future. On the other hand, they were prescient about a few things. The Internet wasn’t really a thing in the 80s, but it is in Shadowrun, and it absolutely is now. Everything having wireless capability can’t really be credited to the 80s (it was introduced in 4e, written in 2005). Drones that were part of Science Fiction in the 80s are a very real part of military technology now. Other things aren’t quite a reality, but we’re getting there, like cybernetics and brain interfaces.
*We can talk about Wal-Mart and GE and Google and Japan in general, but they aren’t quite there yet.
**We can talk about the current VR wave if you want, but I’m not yet convinced it’s going to go differently than the last few.
***This one I’m not going to talk about, sorry.
A major part of the way the game is assumed to go is that you are part of a team doing somewhat illegal things for a mysterious benefactor (called Mr. Johnson regardless of their actual name). Some players view this whole conceit more seriously than others, and the terms that have arisen to describe this are “Black Trenchcoat” and “Pink Mohawk”. The names play off of sterotypes: In a Black Trenchcoat game, everyone is wearing a black trenchcoat and trying not to attract attention and complete the mission, and so on. In a Pink Mohawk game, someone shows up with a Pink Mohawk, and everyone else is okay with that.
Personally I don’t see the distinction as quite so black and white, but that might be because I’m predisposed to the latter style anyway. Even if the tone of a game is entirely serious, I think things are more interesting with a bit of personality. Shadowrun mechanically encourages this somewhat with the addition of positive and negative qualities available during character creation. (For the curious, a pink mohawk would almost certainly fall under “Distinctive Style”, a negative quality worth 5 Karma.) Being serious, and competent and yes, even optimized doesn’t necessarily exclude having a bit of fun.
One of the best things to me in tabletop RPGs are what I’d like to call “Interesting Bad Ideas”. If everything goes as planned things can get boring (although a good GM won’t let this happen), and these provide nice hooks for things that are likely to be fun. While Kodra is usually a nice source of these in games we end up playing together, I’ve been known to make my fair share. Our previous D&D campaign was largely defined by a deal I attempted to make with a red dragon in the first session (It seemed like a good idea at the time). This is how we end up doing things like starting (and sometimes ending) wars and uncovering very odd artifacts and sometimes destroying large sections of the countryside and/or planets.
This Shadowrun campaign might be interesting, as there are two groups (one local to the GM and one through Roll20) running for similar goals. It’s yet to be seen if we’ll come into conflict, although I’m guessing we will, indirectly. My planned Shadowrun character is a bad idea personified (as well as the very incarnation of a running joke about a previous character of mine). Details of this aren’t exactly available to the rest of the party (the GM knows, of course), although a few of them would be able to quickly figure it out if they knew what to look for. From what I know so far of the other characters, I might not be the only one playing a disaster waiting to happen. It should be fun to see whose number comes up first.