Shadowrun: Modern

  • So months, even years ago, there was a discussion on this board where the differences between all the Shadowruns was hotly (very hotly) debated (fought over) and I have found myself since trying to think of what Shadowrun would look like if it was created today.

    I have my vision, but I've run into a snag: What does Shadowrun mean to you? What is the core of the game? Sure, what is fun is important, but all of that can be handwaved and re-added or things that aren't fun can be taken away.

    What is it that makes Shadowrun its own game?

    I already know: Magic, Metahumans, Cyberpunk. But I can create a lot of different game worlds with these three elements. What else? Is it the D&D-style dungeon-crawl (the 'Run)? Is it the animistic-only spirits? The Native American take on magic? Is it Tolkien? The beauty of the emerging magical world? What?

    My interpretation is available on request, but I don't want to taint my question with my own views to be argued over. Argue over your own views first, please!

  • Pitcrew

    Honestly I would think it would look a lot like fourth edition. Fifth edition walked back a lot of things to be more traditionally cyberpunk. Fourth was pretty far from cyberpunk but then again cyberpunk is not really a modern thing, it was a reaction to the emergence of multinationals and technology being everywhere. Neither of those things really generates a reaction anymore because they have been fait accompli for awhile now.

  • I was always drawn to the dark gritty with that bit of fantasy. It was noir with a splash of dark fantasy. It was scraping hy, or jonesing for the next implant so the pay scale (and risk) could go up.

    Cyberpunk was too dry and shadowrun was almost too fantasy, I mostly took the middle road of chasing the personal struggle and the stories that could be found. Plus, I got to draw maps and try to outfox (nearly impossible) a group of experienced players. It was never me vs them, but always trying to work around some insane sheets to provide a challenge.

  • @ThatGuyThere

    Assume I haven't been following Shadowrun. Because I haven't. Explain?


    That was the kind of answer I was hoping for, but I'm not going to tell people not to answer other things. The more my preconceptions are challenged (not attacked! challenged!) the happier I am.

  • Pitcrew

    There was almost a universal power trip to Shadowrun wasn't there? A player could usually find an archetype that portrayed their collective fantasy from shaman to rock star and while the odds were stacked against them, their collective crew could usually (occasionally? sometimes?) be count on to come together as a team when the chips were down. Shadowrun seemed to be able to combine the individual hero trip and meld it together into a team on a run. This is my memory of the good games rather than the ones that crashed and burned because of a disruptive player or two playing chromed out street samurai that would disrupt the game if it wasn't all combat, all the time.

  • Pitcrew

    Fourth edition had wireless everywhere and you really did not need to ever go wired, you could if you wanted but most things were assumed to be wireless, and tech in general seemed to me more advanced from a modern point then the cyberpunk view of what the future would be.
    Fourth edition also dealt a fair amount with governmental politics at least some of the adventure paths, (seasons I think they call them but basically a same thing as the Pathfinder adventure path a collection of modules that form a whole) Now corporations played a huge role in said politics but things like the Orc Underground seeking official district status where drive my non-coprorate entities even if impacted and influenced by them. Same with the Fall of Brackhaven (Governor of Seattle) while corps played a role if was presented much more as a governmental political inspired plot rather then a corp power play.
    Where if you look at earlier editions or other Cyperpunk games, most notably Cyberpunk 2020, non-corporate power structures get a mention but rarely much of a focus or meta-plot spotlight.

  • Pitcrew

    Will reply in depth to this excellent question when I get home, @Thenomain

  • @ThatGuyThere

    Then I understand, and yes you've hit on a lot of where I would go with it, but Cybergen (CP2040?) introduced AR as a major power set years before Shadowrun, and I assume it's part of our future. Corps vs. Municipalities? Going on today. Sure, but is that what makes it Shadowrun? Or is that another aspect of its Cyberpunk underpinnings?

    Like @TwoGunBob kind of touched on, you can play Shadowrun as a very hero-empowerment sense which is kind of in CP2020 but not as heavily. He implies it's the stuff that 'Runs are made of is what he enjoys, which is great. Great information. Great thought-provocation. Always frightening avatar.

  • Pitcrew

    Shadowrun, is, to me, the sum of its parts and yet not. Because some of those parts are things I don't even know about.

    It is, yes, the core tagline: "Man and Magic Meet Machine". I enjoy the juxtoposition of high fantasy elements alongside an evolving sci-fi and cyberpunk core. I enjoy the unique things - Dragon CEOs, elven nations, and a hardline spiritual and environmentalism aspect.

    That said, there are parts I don't as much care for - the treatment of American Indians feels a bit out of date, I suppose. Things that felt super sci-fi are now less so. Drones, longtime features of the setting, are becoming ubiquitous in reality.

    Also, I prefer my shadowrun to be 60-70 percent "pink mohawk". That is, less srious and punishing and more escapist power fantasy a dark underside. There is grim and grit and grime and horrible things happen, but I like being able to have some flash and high octane adventure as well.

  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain said in Shadowrun: Modern:


    Then I understand, and yes you've hit on a lot of where I would go with it, but Cybergen (CP2040?) introduced AR as a major power set years before Shadowrun, and I assume it's part of our future. Corps vs. Municipalities? Going on today. Sure, but is that what makes it Shadowrun? Or is that another aspect of its Cyberpunk underpinnings?

    I think what makes it Shadowrun is how it then incorporates the fantasy elements, Orc Underground gets the name because of the fact it is where a lot of the folks who change into something not pretty go to forge a new life. And also how it continues to tell the story of the Sixth World (in world term for the SR setting) you do have elven wizards sharing the stage with the gritty gang member who can barely afford basic weapons and ware.
    Now granted because of personal preference I never make a mage/shaman, and would prefer magic not be around but magic is part of what makes Shadowrun what is it.

  • To me ShadowRun is the mix of magic and futuristic transhuman elements.

    It's the semi-dystopia of CyberPunk mixed with the wonder (and horror) of magic and the supernatural.

    Where you could have a child come up as a whole different /species/ than you just because of magics resurgence.

    Where the corporations are bigger than governments, and governments try desperately to stay relevant, where most people are happy to just do their time and get their soycaf and underneath it all is a horrible third world element in the sprawls and such.

    Where Might makes Right, but the scale can change in the blink of an eye.

    Where does Morality fit into such a world?

    All these story elements are what make ShadowRun so great for me.

  • So, High Fantasy meets Low Technology? I'm getting a general feel from the last few replies that this is critical.

  • @Thenomain I don't know that I'd consider cyberware & bioware as low technology, but there are very much high fantasy elements to ShadowRun with all the magic around.

  • @Lithium

    there are very much high fantasy elements to ShadowRun with all the magic around.

    I can change that. Powerful magic doesn't need to mean "High Fantasy", though it often does. I can change that.

    So, then, High Fantasy + Low Humanity? When you can have pretty pretty magic, what is "low" or "gritty" about the setting? How does that fit?

  • @Thenomain Because it is very much a place where the majority are essentially slaves to the corporations they work for, or the SINless in the sprawls who have no identity at all and pretty much live in a third world economy where might makes right, gangs can and do rule huge swaths of area, supernatural rats are a serious threat, trying to survive every day is a very real struggle and life is by no means certain.

    There's darkness and grittiness there, in addition to the Runners themselves essentially being 'outside' the system, yet without the 'system' they wouldn't have work either.

    If you are rich/influential/powerful then the world of ShadowRun is luxurious. For most (PC's included) it's the opposite, it's a harsh struggle for survival. There are more 'Runners than work, and you might be flying high one month only to be back in the gutter the next.

    Meanwhile the cops are corporations in their own rights, and don't really care about the rights of the individual over the 'Law' they have been hired to enforce (to varying degrees of accountability) mixed in with their own greed and needs.

    That's the dichotomy I mentioned, there's the potential for the 'high fantasy' bit where magical people have incredible magical toys, the rich have the best pads and cyber/bioware, and then on the other side there is the guy who got rolled and his arm chopped off because it was a prosthetic and what's left of him gets sold as meat to Tanamous Ghouls.

  • @Lithium

    So, the One-Percenters, just with magic. Gotcha.

  • @Thenomain Pretty much. ShadowRun always seemed to me to be like modern civilization, then ramped up to the extremes in every way imaginable for better /and/ for worse. Then throw in magic, supernatural, fantasy races, and cyberware, true virtual reality, and mash it all together in this glorious conglomeration that can be played in a lot of different ways.

    That it has all those elements means it can be ran any which way you want. Low magic, low tech. High magic, high tech. Or any combination thereof.

  • @Lithium


    But in all of that, what makes it Shadowrun, and not Cyberpunk with pointy ears and magic? Or is your answer "Cyberpunk with pointy ears and magic"?

  • @Thenomain Dragons.

    But really I can't answer that so much honestly. I've never really played pure cyberpunk, I only read the first Gibson book and never really got into Cyberpunk 2020 as a game, nobody played it in my area when I was big into TT.

    So I haven't the right information or perspective to give you a good answer to that question.

    It might very well be Cyberpunk with pointy ears (and tusks) and magic, I can't say otherwise.

    I also admit that I loved the lore and stories of ShadowRun, especially when it was still tied to Earthdawn.

  • Pitcrew

    To me, Shadowrun is and always will be Third Edition, particularly the art of Tim Bradstreet. It's gutter-punk as much as it's cyberpunk. People living on the fringes of society, fighting against The Man by getting hired by The Man to try to scrape together enough cash to get the next cool toy (cyberware, focus, whatever) to hold off the gang down the block. It's crazy stuff happening and no one important noticing... until the wrong person does notice and comes down hard.

    It's the Steve Venters cover of Sprawl Sites (plus cyberware). It's gritty, it's grimy, it's dirty, and it's fun.

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